Just Eat It (Up)

ImageBollywood Mumbai. It’s either gloss, glitz and glamour, or it’s oppressive, crowded and dangerous. And then there was a Mumbai in 80’s. Clean, sparse and decidedly middle class. Let’s visit that one, and take the crowds with us. Don’t worry, they’ll stay in the background and let us savor an intimate tale of a few souls.
Even in the acclaimed world of Dabbawallas, mistakes happen. Lives lived apart suddenly intersect, and parallel universes get a window to peak at each other’s trials and triumphs. Lives drifting in loneliness find anchors, and become anchors.
In short, man meets woman. I mean they don’t really meet, but they sort of collide. Without ever meeting. A story of food and its appreciation, of inherent warmth, even when there is a crusty exterior to go with it….. and of romance. Of hearts reaching across distances and saying hi to each other, getting enchanted slowly, and their story told in a genuine and heartfelt manner.
11ndmpRitesh-Ba_11_1515571eSaying Irrfan Khan is great is stating the obvious. Thats increasingly true of Nawazuddin as well. Note especially how in every role Nawazuddin looks as if it actually is his character shining through. The great discovery however is Nimrat Kaur. Subtly shifting between simple and exotic, her character and her acting make Ila seem familiar yet extraordinary. The stars of the film share a chemistry without sharing a screen, and there lies the strength of the film, both the writer and the actors.
See the characters evolve, see the relationships change, see the food become a member of the cast, and see mumbai become more or less oppressive, depending on the characters’ moods. The film is supposed to be a journey. This one shifts from melancholy to comic, from intimate thoughts to being a part of a crowd, and from strangers to something more than friends.
So, with the bustle of town all around, the sounds of a neighbor’s music become the soundtrack of li life, as does the singing in the trains. Chopping veggies in the train seems an act of love and the exchange of recipes and spices spark conversations and more. And mumbai is neither good or bad, it’s not even just the background. it just is. It’s part of the sweet sweet story. Bravo Ritesh Batra, you have written and directed a splendid debut.

Attraction, attachment, and commitment

Beyond the norms of society and the ideas of flawless protagonists, beyond the issues of whether you would ever do this or that, and beyond families …. there is a film.

The Bollywood’s idea of romance is so simple: you meet THE ONE made for you, with divine intervention if needed, and after a few twists and turns you are married. The End. Yashraj films is perhaps the one most associated with this “filmy” notion of love and relationship, so its not just strange, but also refreshing to see them take a whole new angle to this tangled knot.
But when you are not looking for THE ONE, don’t even know whether one exists, and unsure how to recognise them when you even meet them, then how do you untangle this? You go by attraction, of course. Physical, yes, but also something about the person that just says yes. At least thats what our guys do in Shuddha Desi Romance. They are treading on scary grounds: scared of commitment, as well as of their partners’ lack of it. And for people who see marriage mainly through the window of the wedding, everything in marriage is bound to seem distasteful.
The three main characters all have different attitudes, and have severe hang-ups. They are tugged by the felt need of “settling” and they screw up their own and each others’ lives in the process.
In a film devoid of the filmy “family”, Rishi Kapoor as Goyal the wedding organiser acts as the voice of society, telling lovers off some times, and helping them at others…. but only if the aim is to get married. He, more than most people, knows what a charade the weddings are, doesn’t much believe in marriage either, but sees no other path ahead for these lost souls.
The dialogue by Jaideep Sahni is crackling, and a few instances of deliberate repetition serve to highlight some similarity, or difference. Repeated situations create characters out of peripheral characters and bathrooms emerge as a character in themselves. Director Manish Sharma of Band Baaja Baraat stays with the weddings theme but gets much more down to nitty gritty and off the dreamy skies in this one. Jaipur is fantastic, and used brilliantly. I think the music will have a long shelf life; rather I hope it does. It’s fresh, quirky and totally relevant to the story being told.
And the actors….. Lets just remember one thing first. Vaani Kapoor is new, Sushant has done just one film before this, and Parineeti has done two, but was in a supporting role in her first. None of them let that show. There are seasoned performances throughout this film. I thought Sushant in particular gave a really nuanced performance as a guy straddling vulnerability and everyday creepiness.
All in all, the film is like its characters: flawed but with merits. It tries to say something, but is not totally coherent. But while the characters may at times have fleeting romances, the film wants to stay with you. I’d advice you to open your arms and embrace it.