After quite a few debacles, we present Vidya Balan…
Ad filmmaker, Suresh Triveni’s debut, Tumhari Sulu, brings forth life of a middle class family, in Mumbai’s distant suburb, Virar. For a townie, it means the edge of Mumbai city.
The story focuses on an ambitious, restless housewife, Sulochana (Vidya Balan) who is leading a life of dreams and half regrets with her loving, borderline henpecked husband Ashok (Manav Kaul) and 11 year old son Pranav (Abhishek Sharrma). Her routine is set, post sending her husband and son off to their office/ school, she meanders the day through the mundane of her household chores, aspiring at her independent neighborhood air hostesses, with only the radio and inane competitions to give her company. Her ambitious streak ensures she is a winner in most of the events/ races she participates in.
Such a pressure cooker competition on a local radio channel leads her to leave her simple life and enter the glitzy world of radio WOW, something which not only impresses her, but inspires too. An impulsive application for the local RJ contest, eventually leads to her hosting the late night show for lonely hearts.
The first half of the film, with its crisp writing, brilliant screenplay and terrific performances is pitch perfect. One cant find a fault even if one tried to. Hilarious, realistic yet non preachy or self indulgent.
Its in the second half that the film’s 140 minute length starts taking a toll on you and your patience. Long scenes, unwanted dilemma and quite a few cinematic liberties which are in stark contrast to the realistic and brilliant first half.
Without getting into spoilers, the sudden collapse of communication between the couple, attributed mainly due to the problems at the husband’s work place, the sudden singling out of Pranav for something which he was a pro at (supplying adult material in school) and the Abhimaan type ego issues at times seem forced just so to create a problem for the main protagonist, so she can be victimized and eventually emerge as a winner.
What is brilliantly shown is the inter-family rivalry between Sulu and her twin elder sisters, Maasi Twins, as called by her son, the constant comparison and ridicule by the father between them and Sulu for her non achievements in life. As I mentioned, the first half has something for everyone to relate to in some form or the other, be it the obedient husband, the submissive employee, the bored purpose seeking housewife or the boastful, condescending yet loving siblings.
Somehow, all this is lost in forced melodrama in the second half, making your nerves grate at times.
Vijay Maurya as the line producer is first rate. Neha Dhupia as the channel head, Maria, after a long time on screen, is brilliant. Her scene accepting Sulu’s decision is just that, brilliant.
Malishka Mendonsa’s debut is literally a joke by the makers trying to capitalize on the radio base. Sindhu Shekharan and Seema Taneja have a more meaningful impact in the movie, as the twin sisters.
Abhishek Sharma as the 11 year old Pranav, shows how single kids in middle class families, adapt and become a well fit third wheel in such setups, commenting on everything and anything, from the husband’s drunk hangover to being a core decision maker in the day to day running of house. Very well etched out character and brilliantly acted too.
Vidya Balan was supposed to own the film, which was a given. As she does only author backed roles in recent times, Kahani 2, Begum Jaan, Hamari Adhuri Kahani or friendly gestures such as Teen, there was no doubt that she would leave no stone unturned to drive this one home. From her Ballllma as a tribute to Sridevi to her little nuances as the restless soul, she nails the performance. Even in the second half when the film does falter, she still manages to pull through. But to give the credit when due, in the first half she is sheer delight. Even her on air handling of calls is well done.
But in terms of performance, it is the actor, playwright and director, Manav Kaul who steals the show. He is not just a supporting character like woman oriented films usually show the husbands to be. He is an equal in the film. As Ashok, he is a strong partner to Sulu. He delivers such a range, from the ever submissive husband, the accommodating/ understanding loyal employee, to the supportive and then lost partner who can’t ascertain right from wrong due to his wife’s changed status. After Kai Po Che and Citylights, this is another impressive performance from this talented actor. The real scene stealer of the film.
Suresh Triveni, as the writer / director, along with his co writer Vijay Maurya, has his heart definitely in the right place. Somewhere but in an attempt to show the plight of working women, they seem to have gone slightly chauvinistic in their representation. Sulu taking the blame entirely for her personal calamity seems rather wrong in a movie which was all about celebrating Sulu’s independence. This gets further accentuated by the poor editing wherein a crucial outburst by Manav is notably edited out by Shivkumar Panicker. Thereby making the so happy ending seem rather pat. The director of ad films like Mauka Mauka, seems to have set out right in his debut, but somewhere down the second half, it seems they just wanted to show Sulu being singled out as the only way out for her family issues.
All in all, do see the film for superlative performances by Vidya, Abhishek, Vijay, Neha and above all Manav Kaul. For the second half, do keep the popcorn at hand.
By: Yusuf Poonawala