A Trippy Birthday Party: Exploring the Comedy and Crime in ‘Happy Birthday to Me’

If you had watched the trailer of “Happy Birthday to Me,” you might approach this Kannada film with a clear sense of its central conflict, eagerly anticipating the main twist. However, director Rakesh Kadri skillfully avoids delaying the inevitable suspense; the film immediately offers viewers a reason to be intrigued.

“Happy Birthday to Me” serves as a trippy narrative about a birthday party that takes a dark turn. Puneeth (played by Sidhaartha Maadhyamika) invites Adithi (Chaithra J Achar), whom he introduces as a “friend,” to his home to celebrate his birthday. Yet, the celebration never truly begins, as mysterious events culminate in Adithi’s untimely death. The question that then arises: Can Puneeth extricate himself from this precarious situation?

Kannada cinema rarely delves into the ludicrous yet unpredictably risky world of ‘stoners,’ which gives “Happy Birthday to Me” its unique charm. Adding a crime element, Kadri allows the narrative to be driven by the presence of a dead body—a concept partly inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope,” as the director disclosed in pre-release interviews.

The film consciously refrains from taking itself too seriously, positioning the unfolding events between the start and the climax as more pivotal than the conclusion itself. This approach results in a moderately engaging and somewhat humorous narrative built on dialogues and strong performances.

The cast’s performances stay true to the film’s easy-going vibe. Siddu Moolimani, portraying Thirumalesh A.K.A Trippy, who is Puneeth’s friend and flatmate, delivers a believable portrayal of a psychedelic enthusiast. Moolimani masterfully navigates the nuances of his character, avoiding jarring emotional shifts and succeeding in maintaining a light-hearted, funny demeanor.

Adding significantly to the comedic element, Gopalakrishna Deshpande stars as the apartment’s owner. His hilarious performance, showcasing a man under the influence of an illegal street drug, has him hallucinating a battle against British invaders at Bengaluru’s Silk Board junction—a scene that will tickle those familiar with the local traffic chaos.

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. His unhinged portrayal sells this absurd and humorous scenario with aplomb.

There are numerous chucklesome dialogues worth mentioning. For instance, Trippy, fearing possible imprisonment over Chaithra’s death, inquires whether Indian prisons have Western-style commodes. Another humorous exchange involves Trippy petitioning for the establishment of weed clinics in India, promoting the idea of smoking up in Magadi instead of traveling to Manali.

However, not every comedic scene lands well. A sequence featuring an extended joke about growing weed on the moon loses its momentum as it drags on, evoking more impatience than laughter. Similar prolonged, dull sequences clutter the film, sometimes leaving viewers yearning for the plot to advance.

Other characters visiting Puneeth’s home provide varying degrees of interest. For example, a comedic segment involving a security guard fails to capture the audience’s interest, faltering in its attempt to add humor.

Character development is notably minimal, with the film providing scant backstory for its characters. While the film does attempt to explain Puneeth’s anger issues, it doesn’t delve deeply enough to add substantial layers to his story.

Pacing remains inconsistent throughout “Happy Birthday to Me,” requiring viewers to exhibit patience as they wait for standout moments between the less engaging parts. Despite its blemishes, the film represents a commendable indie attempt to break Kannada cinema’s conventional molds. Kadri and his team receive accolades for their daring experimental approach, making the film an excellent pick for a relaxed Sunday afternoon with friends.

Currently, “Happy Birthday to Me” is streaming on multiple platforms, including Airtel Xstream, Hungama Play, Vadafone TV, JustWatch, Watcho, and Tata Binge. For those seeking a blend of comedy and crime with a touch of the absurd, this film is well worth a watch.

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