Saturday, August 25, 2012

Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi has little meat in its big heart

Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi is a small little film that has been marketed really well, so much so that I could not find tickets to the show I went for today. The next show, which I actually got tickets for, was also housefull. I think the producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali definitely did shell out some extra bucks from the crores he has raked in from Rowdy Rathore to help SFKTNP, a romantic comedy, to reach out to a larger audience with an unusual star cast and a failed music album. Amongst films spammed with tomfoolery, including Bhansali's own cash grab Rowdy Rathore, I was expecting this one to be a breezy affair marking Farah Khan's debut into acting. The trailer promised an infallible fun ride with some cheesiness. Thankfully, the film turns out to be more likable than I imagined.

Directed by Sanjay's sister and first time director, Bela Bhansali Sehgal, and written by Sanjay himself, SFKTNP does not try to invent anything new for the most repetitive genre in the industry, the rom-coms. Instead, it espouses its unoriginal plot and presents it with a whole lot of heart and some unabashed simplicity. SFKTNP manages to quench your thirst for entertainment without resorting to chronic stupidity. The plot is simple. A middle aged man and woman find love in each other but they have to go through the hysterical hurdles that lie ahead before they can unite. In a scene from the film, the lead character, Farhad, awkwardly grabs the hand of his lady, Shirin, in a public place and kisses it, before apologizing for the same on his first date. In another moment from the film, Shirin is talking to her father who is in coma and unexpectedly calls Farhad her boyfriend who pounces on to hug her the next moment, something he had been wanting to do for a long time. Its nuances like these that win the public goodwill in favor of the film. The world of characters in SFKTNP is unassuming and truthful, with barely any shades of grey. Bela delves into the Parsi characters, builds them on clumsy caricatures of the community, but garnishes them with uncomplicated simplicity and warmth. Whats gutsy of the film is that it never cares to be glossy or frothy, never bothers if the people dont look their best or if the production values are underwhelming, yet it manages to effervescently reach out with a condensed tale. There are so many fat people in the movie that make fat physicality look astoundingly cute and lovable. The romance is witty without too much of mush and schmaltz and there is a strong undercurrent of taking pride in one's profession in its texture.

However, SFKTNP is not without its share of snags. The songs only act like a deterrent to the narrative to start with despite the efficient cut of around 100-110 minutes runtime. The film tries to plug in a couple of silly comical portions that serve no real purpose. In an effort to pay a tribute to the Parsi community, Bela does seem to sloaganeering a bunch of stereotypes which seem like a hyperbole. In another effort to pay an ode to Bollywood, the proceedings may get cheesy a couple of times but are complemented with authenticity soon after keeping you engaged. Music by Jeet Ganguly is a let down barring Ramba Mein Samba that is voiced by the inimitable Usha Uthup and captured deliciously on the screen. Cinematography by Mahesh Aney is fitting while the editing by Bela and Rajesh Pandey is slick, lest it could have eliminated some of the songs. Production Design is oversimplified that makes it look like a budget cut at times.

The best part about Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi is its eclectic cast. Nearly every actor cast in this movie is a Parsi, apart from Farah Khan, which lends an avowedly exact flavor to the film and dissolves the boundaries of make believe. Boman Irani is superbly cast as Farhad and delivers a crackling performance asserting why he is one of the best we have. This is a character which is the most true to his skin and he portrays it with a lot of zest. Watch him in the breakout sequence towards the end or rolling his eyes every time he goofs up in love, he is top-rate all through the film. Farah Khan makes an assured debut where in she is seen improvising many a times or callously mouthing her lines like she talks in interviews and shows, without too much of forced acting. Daisy Irani as Boman's mom is condescendingly amazing while Shammi Ji as the grandmom is stunningly ebullient, complementing each other and lighting up the screen with their vital charm. Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal as Farah's aunt is impressive while Kavin Dave is stunning in a short role. It helps the purpose to have a seasoned cast on board and obliterates half the discrepancies of a simplistic plot.

As I said earlier, SFKTNP does not promise a lot of innovation, either in style or substance, but since the majority of Indian movie going audience craves for some escapist entertainment, this one provides a lot of that without succumbing to slam bang narration. It has taken a dull start in the domestic market overall, owing predominantly to its lack of big stars, but the business in metro cities should pick up to put forward decent collections for a film which is more deserving than a horde of others. It may not be your cup of the tea to watch a run-of-the-mill fare with no stars or special critical acclaim, but I would still suggest you to go watch it instead of waiting to make Akshay Kumar's Joker a blockbuster next week. Here's an extra half star for the fresh performances and a rare pluck in Bela Sehgal to overcome Bollywood's obsession with physicality.

Rating - 3/5

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