One Crazy Thing

Written and directed by Amit Gupta, One Crazy Thing (2016) deals with the consequences of a private sex tape being made public. Ray Panthaki is Jay, a former television star who now finds himself back in the position of struggling actor as he deals with the repercussions of becoming an unwanted internet star. Desperate to move on with his life, things start to look up after he meets Hannah, Daisy Bevan, a woman who hates the invasiveness of the internet and knows nothing of Jay’s stardom. As the romance intensifies, how does Jay tell Hannah the truth?

Digital illustration of One Crazy Thing, Ray Panthaki’s Jay Veer.
One Crazy Thing, digital illustration by Hamish Mèk Chohan.

What I enjoyed about the film is Ray Panthaki’s really endearing performance. Having followed his career since Ali G Indahouse (2002) and 28 Days Later (2002), whenever I see him onscreen, he’s always an actor that feels distinctly “ours”. A large part of this is down to watching his run on EastEnders, though I haven’t followed the show for some time, my family and I did spend a few years watching it and following the South Asian Ferreira family, and then the Masood family afterwards, because evidently South Asians only move into towns once another has left. At least they did so in Walford circa 2000s. So, whenever I do come across Panthaki in such superb films as Keri Collins’ Convenience (2013), or portraying Kamal Ahmed in Gavin Hood’s Official Secrets (2019), it distinctly feels like watching someone from your hometown.

However, leaving aside the convenience of Daisy Bevan’s Hannah feeling like the character has been created purely to serve Jay’s needs in the moment, with the convenience of loathing the internet and not engaging with anything online. My primary concern with One Crazy Thing relates to sexual assault being used as a light-hearted plot point.

In the film Jay is clearly ashamed of the sex tape he appears in. Released by an angered ex-girlfriend who subsequently has shot to fame as an actor in a more legitimate capacity. We see the world via Jay’s bitterness, shame is shown towards Jay by his family but largely the fallout of the sex tape is unwanted adoration - going on a blind date with a woman who confesses she wouldn’t mind being filmed having sex with Jay, enthusiastically being spotted by builders as the “star” of the tape, being offered an acting role which involves nudity because of Jay’s notoriety. The consequences of the tape’s publicity has reduced Jay’s career to nothing forcing him to take on more work at the family’s restaurant as he dismisses unwanted offers resulting from the sex tape. Around him his friends and agent are enforcing he capitalise on the “opportunity”, that he should be taking advantage of the attention.

Released prior to the me too movement’s heights, watching this film in 2021 is difficult, at least for me. Beyond the romance, the film pivots around how Jay should live with his own internet infamy. What Gupta fails to address is the act of sexual assault that has taken place towards Jay in the form of revenge porn. The sex tape is used as a joke - from its duration to the Omar “There's Nothing Like This” soundtrack - what I was supposed to find funny personally became uncomfortable viewing as I realised nothing of what I expected to be addressed was going to be. Maybe this is down to Panthaki’s performance, you feel the hurt he’s experiencing and this conflicts with the humor of how everyone else is engaging with the situation. Fundamentally the fault of the sex tapes release is placed on Jay, and despite not releasing it himself, it’s implied that a selfish act of wanting to focus on his career rather than be in a relationship is justifiable cause to ruin his reputation. His ex-girlfriend, Riann Steele, even calls him out at not moving on with his life after the fact. How would this be received if the roles were reversed?

Maybe I’ve not watched enough films where sex tapes are used to perpetuate a protagonist’s learning opportunity but personally there’s something fundamentally wrong in this resolution. I’m being incredibly harsh. I don't apply the same judgement on the exploitative narratives of Jon Turteltaub's While You Were Sleeping (1995) or Peter Segal's 50 First Dates (2004). But in One Crazy Thing I think the nature of the exploitative act was just that step closer to reality, especially when being viewed by a more conscious audience. Revenge porn is sadly part of the society we live in, has been experienced by people I know, and I cannot enjoy a film I feel flippantly includes the act purely as a plot point. Maybe Gupta’s investigation into how revenge porn has impacted male victims has informed the conclusion of the film? Or maybe this is a case of this type of romantic comedy simply not being made today, in a post me too society, destined for a future episode of Channel 4’s It Was Alright In The....

There is a moment in the film where Gupta makes some really poignant points reflective of the British South Asian experience. In a scene where Jay is giving an intense audition his performance is immediately undermined by the party who is casting when they ask him to try again with an “accent”. It’s uncomfortable to watch Jay having to navigate the conversation so as not to embarrass those who asked him the question, having to explain London born South Asian’s probably wouldn’t have an accent. It really touched a nerve, especially as someone who doesn’t have an accent. Yes, I have brown skin, but I’m also born in England and sound as such. No, I cannot “do an accent” and honestly, I feel embarrassed to attempt so, like I’m offending people, family members, who do have an accent.

To end on a positive note, I coincidentally also came across Gupta’s Jadoo (2013) a few days prior to watching One Crazy Thing, which I thought was really rather lovely. Being a much more personal project, reflective of Gupta’s upbringing and his family owning and running a restaurant in Leicester. It’s the story of two restaurant owning brothers who have had a falling out and the daughter of one brother who attempts to bring an end to the feud. What I wanted in One Crazy Thing was all the warmth, love, and brightness seen in Jadoo. Jadoo’s celebration of food at the core of the story called to mind Jûzô Itami's Tampopo (1985) and Alfonso Arau's Like Water For Chocolate (1992); I wholeheartedly recommend seeking it out - though there are cameos from people I am less keen on, given the above. One Crazy Thing on the other hand is a pleasant enough romantic comedy, with some lovely performance, structured around a problematic set up.