25 August 2012
Film Review: Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi
It’s great to have a mainstream Hindi movie abandon the unreality of an eternally youthful, size zero universe for a love story that centres around two 40-something adults. Set in the context of the regular airbrushed Bollywood romance, the farts-and-all reality of Bela Bhansali Sehgal’s directorial debut is nothing short of radical. But barring a few warm and funny moments, Shirin Farhad ki Toh Nikal Padi is a bit of a damp squib.
The story—written by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who is Sehgal’s brother—revolves around a 45-year-old Parsi bachelor called Farhad Pastakia (Boman Irani). Farhad really wants to get married, but every alliance falls through when the potential bride discovers that he works as a salesman in a bra and panty shop.
So Farhad waits, patiently writing letters to Indira Gandhi on behalf of a deranged uncle who insists that she “married the wrong Firoz”, even more patiently dealing with non-stop phone calls from his overfond mother Nargis (Daisy Irani), and hoping that his luck will change.
And it seems to, when the feisty Shirin (Farah Khan) walks into his underwear showroom, and then into his life. But then Nargis decides—for reasons involving a water tank—that she does not like Shirin, and life gets complicated.
This rather slender plot might have made for an appetising enough morsel, if only Sehgal didn’t stuff it so full of unfunny toilet humour and silly escapades involving nutty old Parsis: there are only so many farting jokes and gun-toting bawas one can take.
In recent times, the happy-go-lucky Parsis of Khatta Meetha have been replaced by the slightly mad ones of Sooni Taraporewala’s Little Zizou and the sinister ones of Homi Adajania’s Being Cyrus
Sehgal’s version—squabbling housing society nutters—maintains the Hindi cinema fiction of the fully self-contained Parsi universe, where everyone only drinks Duke’s Mangola and Raspberry and your favourite food can either be salli boti or dhansak.
The bubble provides its moments of insight: when Farhad, trying hard to show how much his tastes match Shirin’s, agrees that ‘Ranbir Roshan’ is a wonderful actor, the film opens up the possibility that there is still a real Mumbai uncolonised by Bollywood. But mostly, the airless Shirin Farhad world, where everything from living and socialising to jobs and hospitals is tightly enclosed in a Parsi setting, feels a trifle unreal.
Sehgal’s film is clearly aiming for the warm family humour of the Hrishikesh Mukherjee variety, but it’s simply not funny enough. The bra-panty and fart jokes aren’t that great, and the Parsi meetings breaking into battles get really repetitive.
The home scene isn’t sparkling either. Daisy Irani as Farhad’s irrepressible mother and Shammi as his quiet, occasionally giggly grandmother are fun enough to watch—though they don’t come anywhere close to the marvelousness of Dolly Ahluwalia and Kamlesh Gill in Vicky Donor.
Shirin’s family scene—the coma-ridden dad, the single sacrificing auntie —though it manages to depict difficult real-life circumstances with a rare lightness of touch, is a bit boring. There are also several completely unnecessary songs, which do nothing for the film except slacken the already slow pace.
The pleasure of watching choreographer-director Farah Khan gyrate expertly to steps we usually might see her heroines carry out isn’t enough to compensate for the impatience we feel as yet another song interrupts the already minimal proceedings of plot.
The central performances are what keep the film afloat. Boman Irani does a fine job, playing his everyman character with the perfect blend of helplessness and optimism, and achieving a believable Parsi-middle-classness without ever overplaying his hand. It’s a joy to watch his quiet transformation as he wakes up to the happy realization that love may not, after all, have passed him by.
Farah Khan, too, is perfectly cast, and manages to keep up her side of the boat by playing Shirin as what one imagines is a version of herself: outspoken, no-nonsense, impulsive and warm. One wishes they had a tighter, funnier film to wrap around them. Hopefully there’ll be a next time.
Read this review on Firstpost.com, here.