Straight away, let's give debutant director Anupam Sinha his due. He has tried to dodge the formula in some areas of his film, never mind the artistic liberties whereby some European resort is passed off as London.
Never mind the wholesale relocation of the Hollywood film "Meet Joe Black", with Anupam Kher and Aftab Shivdasani slipping into the roles originally played by Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt.
From Pitt to the pits? Not quite!
Shivdasani plays the role of the angel of death who descends to carry back well-settled business magnate Anupam Kher with a casual grace.
In the Indian context, Shivdasani plays Lord Yama, the god of death. The heavenly connection isn't new to Indian cinema. Many years ago there was a spoof on heavenly links called "Swarg Narak". In "Chamatkar", Naseeruddin Shah was Shah Rukh Khan's guardian angel.
What complicates the other-worldly resonance in "Shukriya" is the plot's Hollywood antecedents. Spirituality and existential debates are an essential part of our culture. They're relatively new to the West.
When "Meet Joe Black" cast Brad Pitt as a yankee Yama, he seemed to be a seductive alien.
Shivdasani's interaction with Kher seems to be a mockery of the Hindu philosophy of karma. The designer existentialism appears as phoney as khadi spun in Luxembourg, or ghagras spinning on the banks of the Thames.
It just doesn't add up.
Nonetheless this film means well. The director has a developed aesthetic sense. The sets are tastefully done to indicate a posh though discreet household. The picture-postcard locales (shot with timorous affection by Rajiv Shrivastava) seem to sing out the songs of life much better than the feeble music by a plethora of uninspired composers.
So meet "Joe Shivdasani", the angel who assumes human form and infiltrates Anupam Kher's life and home. Some of Shivdasani's scenes with Kher's wife Rati Agnihotri are affectionately conceived and executed.
The trouble is, Sinha's vision bends backward to pay homage to Yash Chopra's school of romanticism.
What gets your attention is the quietness of mood that Sinha instils in his plot. He isn't in a hurry to tell his story.
The pace is deliberately leisurely. The mellow movement gives the characters a chance to grow out of the plot instead of being thrust on the audience.
Casting Anupam Kher in the central role is a boon for the film. In his other film this week ("Bride and Prejudice") Kher is just a shadowy figure in the riotous ladies' picture.
"Shukriya" gives him a lot more meat that he bites into with a force that reminds us of the actor's beginnings in Mahesh Bhatt's "Saraansh". One particular monologue on stage has Kher pulling out all stops to deliver a rousing statement on the transience of life and the permanence of death.
Alas, the weightiness of the plot's underbelly never rendered itself lucidly in "Meet Joe Black". It fails to register with any semblance of sharpness in "Shukriya".
Apart from Kher and Shivdasani (who's admirably restrained whenever he isn't busy flashing his unnaturally white teeth), the rest of the cast is pretty low on credibility.
A yum-yum take on Lord Yama? Not quite. This is "Meet Joe Black" without much meat.