‘The Archies’: The Retro Musical Charms Despite Shortcomings

By Dhaval Roy

Story: Set in 1964 in a fictional hill station called Riverdale in India, the coming-of-age story follows Archie and his friends navigating friendship, romance, and social responsibility as their cherished park faces a threat from developers demolishing it to build a hotel.

Review: Director Zoya Akhtar adapts the adolescent-favourite Archies Comics for the big screen and ensures the Bollywood outing is colourful, youthful, and sweet. But above all, she creates it as a teen musical comedy. This is where her latest venture stands apart. There have been few high-school musical dramas in Hindi cinema before. Add to that the nostalgia value – the film’s cast have a unique canvas. Right enough, the screen is splashed with a dreampop-like sequences and an endearing retro look and feel. And at its heart are the 90’s kids’ favourite teenagers — Archie Andrews (Agastya Nanda), Veronica Lodge (Suhana Khan), Betty Cooper (Khushi Kapoor), Jughead (Mihir Ahuja), Reggie Mantle (Vedang Raina), Ethel Muggs (Dot), and Dilton Doiley (Yuvraj Menda).

While the comics are all about the group’s goofy shenanigans, the movie falls short of being as irreverent. The characters are almost adulting and making tough choices between passion and practicality or progress. The theme of wholesome friendship is infused with activism, as the gang tries to save the cultural hub, Green Park, from being torn down to make way for a grand hotel. The movie works well and charms as a musical. The tracks by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Ankur Tewari, The Islanders, and Dot (Aditi Saigal) are foot-tapping and fun, especially ‘Dhishoom Dhishoom,’ ‘Sunoh,’ and ‘Va Va Voom.’ Gautam Hegde’s choreography in the songs is another highlight that adds to the film’s visual appeal.

The Archie world’s adorable characters are its strongest point, and it’s the same with the posse of fresh faces here. Suhana Khan, as the rich and spoilt Veronica Lodge, pulls off the sweet and sassy girl act torn between her businessman father’s shrewdness and loyalty to her friends. Agastya Nanda is charming as the confused Archie, who lives life just for the kicks but must understand that ‘everything is politics’ and can’t choose between Veronica and Betty. Khushi Kapoor impresses as Betty, and has scope to perform with her emotional scenes, which she pulls off with aplomb. While Vedang Raina as Reggie and Dot as Ethel are impressive, Mihir Ahuja as the adorable Jughead is good, too. Yuvraj Menda as Dilton, as the nerdy and cute teenager, deserves special mention. All the newcomers get their moment to shine.

The movie loses steam in the second half and could have been more engaging as the conflict escalates. Solutions are convenient, and the resolution is trifling. Overall, while the era, the look and feel have been created well, the movie ends up a tad underwhelming. What is delightful is watching a bunch of fresh new faces put their best food forward – whether for emoting on screen or doing some rock n roll the 60s tunes. — Times of India