Simultaneously undefinable and familiar, the audacious Indian film "CRD" would probably charm more if it boggled the mind less. The title's meaning remains head-scratchingly inscrutable even after viewing.
Nevertheless, inside filmmaker Kranti Kanadé's frenzied portrait of a cutthroat college theater program — inspired by a real one in India — lies healthy doses of sincere artiness, stylistic pop and gritty performance as a way of serving up a fizzy alternative to the predictable pleasures of Bollywood cinema. Kanadé's protagonist is an ambitious, well-studied young writer named Chetan (Saurabh Saraswat) who joins his new school's intense acting class run by Mayank (Vinay Sharma), a smart but tyrannical professor whose provocative methods spur Chetan to clarify his own purpose and find his inner rebel as an artist.
That's the cleanest possible description for a movie thick with fantastical tangents (animation, movie references, actors playing dual roles) and jarring tonal shifts as it wends its way toward a one-act play competition in the final third that pits a renegade troupe, led by Chetan, against Mayank. When the alpha male rivalry gets a little tiresome, Mrinmayee Godbole provides welcome feminine dimension as Chetan's strong-willed muse/romantic interest.
Though there's never a smooth path toward narrative or emotional enlightenment as you watch "CRD," Kanadé's willingness to explore the creative impulse through impish experimentation is amusing and infectious.
In Hindi & English, with English subtitles
1 hour, 48 minutes
Town Center 5, Monica Film Center