Among the more intriguing characters in Mickey Virus, a thriller built around a bunch of hackers gone bonkers, are two that aren't on the screen at all.
One of them is only heard over the phone, the other not even that. One is the male protagonist's nagging mom who constantly badgers him to buy pumpkin from the market for her kaddu halwa.
The other is a power broker named Anwar Raja, who launders money for corrupt politicos but is well out of the reach of the arms of the law.
How one wishes the characters that are actually seen in the film were quite as interesting as the mom and the don.
That is not to say that Mickey Virus, directed by debutant Saurabh Varma, has nothing on offer.
As a first film, it is rather commendable. In the cast, too, are two first-timers who pass muster - Manish Paul and Elli Avram.
But this film, like the hacker-hero, is a bit like a Viru Sehwag innings. When it is good, it is rousingly good. When it falls short, it is exasperating.
The cricket analogy is used here with a purpose: the ACP who ropes in Mickey Arora (Manish Paul) to crack a case involving two murdered foreigners, describes him as "hacking ki duniya ka Sehwag".
Paul tries hard to get into the skin of the cocky, fast-talking Malviya Nagar lad who can hack any account in a jiffy, but the act is exhilarating only in parts.
The screenplay isn't as smart as it pretends to be. It is neither all that funny nor particularly thrilling.
Mickey Virus has two distinct halves - the first is devoted to loads of youthful drollery as two policemen strive to get the computer whizkid on their side; the second takes on the form of a deadly whodunit in which several lives are lost.
The film's male protagonist is a drifter who chances upon a pretty white-skinned girl who resembles Kung-fu Chameli, a video game character he has created.
In the true brazen tradition of Bollywood's glorified stalkers, he pursues her so aggressively that she gives in to his advances soon enough.
The lady, Kamayani George (Elli Avram), works in a high-profile bank. One night she erroneously transfers a huge sum of money into an unintended account.
Her job is on the line. The hacker-turned-loverboy steps in, breaks into the bank's site, and reverses the money transfer.
That is the big turning point for the film and the hero - both take on a completely different tangent. Here, we hear of Anwar Raja for the first time.
His name is mentioned a few times more, but he never puts in an appearance. The audience is only told that the man has lost Rs 100 crore from his swelling account.
The bank fraud, it turns out, is the handiwork of people operating at a level that the friendly neighbourhood hacker can barely comprehend.
He is in danger of being hauled up for fraud and murder. So he takes to his heels to buy time and cover his tracks.
The film turns into Bhaag Mickey Bhaag - but there is no gold medal for him at the end of the run.
The story is no different for the audience. The film delivers a few stray laughs and generates a few suspenseful moments, but at the end of the exercise, it is left with a flat, flaccid climax.
The wrongdoers - there are a whole lot of them - point guns at each other even as they assiduously spell out their game plans for the benefit of the cornered protagonist so that he can quickly figure out where the escape chutes are.
The names of the characters - Floppy, Chutney, Pancho, et al - are infinitely funnier than the lines they spout.
In keeping with the general air of bathos that the film strives for, the unyielding Assistant Commissioner of Police Siddhant Chauhan (Manish Chaudhuri) is scarier than the obvious red herrings that Mickey encounters as he tries to clear his name.
Another irritant is the persistent music that plays on the soundtrack as the scamsters hold forth on their motives and modus operandi in the climactic sequence in an underground Nehru Place parking lot.
Varun Badola as an inspector who has gunpowder allergy provides the film's best moments.
Despite the many virus attacks that the screenplay faces, Mickey Virus is a passable film.