Review

Indian film 'CRD' both baffling and enchanting

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.

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“CRD”

In Hindi & English, with English subtitles

Not rated

1 hour, 48 minutes

Town Center 5, Monica Film Center

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The photo caption in an earlier version of this review misspelled actor Abhay Mahajan's first name as Abhor.
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