Vidya Balan, Unsurprisingly, Cracks This Part
This thoroughly sweet, Mumbai middle-class, slice-of-life film starts off with an unsliced lemon balancing on a spoon as Sulochana, in short Sulu, runs, trying to beat off competition to hit the finishing line, in what's called the spoon-race, whose existence most of us would've forgotten since primary school-much like the sack, or three-legged race.
Virar resident Sulu is essentially an enthu-cutlet serial contestant. She enrolls in various neighbourhood type 'saree-tying', 'Lata's sad song' competitions to bring home mixer, grinder, toaster etc. (there's much product placement in this pic).
Now I don't know if this is a phenomenon of sorts. But you should carefully observe single-kid families sometimes (I have on occasion), especially when the child is old enough to engage in adult conversations. These families, you will notice, turn into an age-agnostic, inseparably tight unit, thick as a brick, that practically lives, and parties together. Sulu's family is a prime case study.
So is this film, where all the main characters-the husband (Manav Kaul, superbly subtle), housewife, and the little boy-are so gently empathetic to each other that while they face life's several (especially financial) issues, they rarely get overtly confrontational, remaining real about everything still. As it is with most normal families. First-time filmmaker up here (Suresh Triveni) does a fine job of getting this sense of proportion right.
What could possibly upset this organic applecart? Nothing, really, until you also begin to see each as a separate individual, with their own aspirations. Selfless Sulu, much like Sridevi's character in English Vinglish (2012), is exactly the sort of person you'd look through in a traditional Indian home. Because she's basically built herself to serve her family first-her own identity comfortably seated in the background, out-of-focus at best.
This film focuses on that very backdrop. Sulu wants to be a radio jockey - we're not sure of what kind. I guess the filmmakers may have initially thought of a housewife who does live sex-chats. This is a little lamer. I guess she's on a mainstream radio station, being the 'love guru', perhaps.
The plot catches your eye for sure, even if the film takes far too long to get to it, or meander around it. We've progressively begun to watch more and more mainstream movies on the Everywoman. This might appear progressive, only to someone who's unable to appreciate that that's frickin' half the world anyway! What this film gets equally right is the ensemble, walk-on cast-the cabbie, the child, the callers. To be fair, they consist of the whole world after all!
At the centre of it is Sulu, the mid-class homemaker. Vidya Balan, unsurprisingly, cracks this part. Honestly, I like the idea of Vidya, which is the opposite of showbiz vanity. It's impossible to think of a Bollywood leading lady-an educated, upper middle-class 'outsider' herself-who'd consciously script a resume so stunningly eclectic that you can host an incredible, international retrospective already.
Whether the films light up the box-office or not - as 'The Dirty Picture' (2011) or 'Kahaani' (2012) did, paving the way for a whole set of women-led mainstream cinema - her characters (of a detective in 'Bobby Jasoos', or wh**e-house owner in 'Begum Jaan') inevitably draw you in. This film, where Vidya shows up as a vivacious, fat Virar aunty, embodying all the compassions and contradictions within a modern desi woman, is not an exception, by any means. It is really as good as it gets.