“Filmy” is a word that is often used to describe something where things are stretched almost to the point of disbelief. It comes from the expectation of watching a Bollywood movie where actions and emotions are so fleshed out to the point like you feel you’re being force-fed a dish with very strong flavours. You could perhaps think of it like your grandmother’s mango pickle.
Every once in a while, however, you’re served up a dish where all the flavours are so well-balanced that you come away feeling satisfied, knowing that the chef trusted you enough to appreciate the individual components that went into the dish to make it beautiful.
This is how I felt as the credits rolled on “Tumhari Sulu” – a feel-good movie revolving around the life and struggles of a simple middle class home-maker, her aspirations and the society around her. It has all the ingredients of a “small town girl against the big bad world” cringe fest that we’ve come to expect from Bollywood. What you get, however, is a surprisingly powerful, well balanced, just-enough-nonsense charmer.
Sulochana, played by Vidya Balan is the family black-sheep, youngest-of-three sisters and now a middle class home maker. Together with her factory-admin husband and naughty son they have struggled to carve out a cozy little existence in the maximum city of Bombay. Being constantly put down by her over-achieving sisters, she looks out for ways to score little “wins” to keep herself motivated.
The casting in the movie is near-perfect with a lot of fresh faces. Neha Dhupia as the classy head of operations at a radio station provides some wonderful heart warming moments of support. Manav Kaul as Sulu’s husband carries his world on his shoulders, enduring all the middle-class struggles both with family and work. Ayushmann Khurrana as himself plays a sweet cameo solidifying the plotline.
However, Vidya Balan shoulders the movie and has delivered one of her most memorable performances. In a way only she can do it, you find yourself rooting for her character within the first few minutes of the movie. It is very easy to take “bubbly” to the point of it being annoying, but Ms Balan has nailed every single scene with her smile and inimitable expressions.
The movie differs from the other usual feel-good fares as there’s no blatant tragedy that the main character has to overcome to start the redemption arc and to come away as “winning”. There are no histrionics and people don’t break into unexpected song-and-dance. The emotions, whenever on display are raw, powerful and importantly, very intelligent with its subtlety. You find yourself rooting for Sulu, you will empathise with the difficulties in her family and you will hate the naysayers with a vengeance.
This brings me back to the point I was making about subtlety. Tumhari Sulu is a wholesome fare that you can enjoy immensely without feeling like a fanboy. You come away thanking the director and editor for respecting your ability to feel emotions without being told which one to feel. I strongly suspect this isn’t something the “masses” might want, especially those who need a serving of their grandmother’s mango pickle with every dish.
To them I say, please stick to watching Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. Take a bow, director Suresh Triveni – looking forward to more of such endearing stories.