Sunday, October 09, 2005

Main, Meri Patni Aur Woh 

Step right into Basu Chatterjee territory—ordinary people, with ordinary problems.

Chandan Arora, sets his film Main, Meri Patni Aur Woh in Lucknow— its quaint sleepy ambience, drab houses, chaotic traffic and provincial lifestyles (lovingly captured by Jehangir Chowdhry). Which by itself is a refreshing change from the identical gloss of most metro city-based films.

The ‘hero’ is Mithilesh Shukla (Rajpal Yadav), who is the quintessential loser. Mild-mannered, but completely lacking in any physical or mental charm, the quiet librarian is forced to go see a potential bride in Bareilly. He doesn’t want to get married, and as his uncle (Vinod Nagpal) puts it, he has such a good chance of getting rejected that he needn’t worry. Who would want to marry a man shorter than herself? reasons Mamaji.

Hilarious scenes at the bride’s home—an endless succession of relatives stuffing food down the hapless man’s throat. When the girl Veena (Rituparna Sengupta) appears, a bright, beautiful girl, unmarried till 30 because of a horoscope problem, and approves of Mithilesh, he cannot but agree to the wedding. A big flaw in the film—why would a girl like Veena marry a guy like Mithilesh? Forget looks, the guy has nothing (no wit, no conversational skills, not even money!) that would attract a woman like Veena, who is not shy, ugly, poor or stupid. Is the film saying that girls at 30 get so desperate, they’d agree to marry the first guy who came along?

Back in Lucknow, they settle into a conventional life, but Mithilesh starts getting a severe inferiority complex, when everybody from his best buddy Salim (Varun Badola) to the milkman, vegetable vendor and cabbie are smitten by Veena’s beauty.

Then Akash (Kay Kay Menon) turns up in the neighbourhood, Veena’s childhood buddy-- jovial, outgoing, talented, upwardly mobile. Veena behaves with such flirtatious coquettishness, that Mithilesh is convinced they have something going on.

Mithilesh’s pathetic attempts to hang on to his dignity are cute and funny up to a point, but the film then goes on and on till the silly fellow’s imagined travails start to annoy.

Of course, Arora does not even hint at the possibility that there might have been a puppy romance between Veena and Akash, or that she, for a brief second regretted missing out on what might have been. There is absolutely no complexity in the film. Even Mithilesh’s mental trauma is simplified by comparison to the Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam scenario – he imagines himself in the place of the rejected husband while watching the film.

Still you can’t but applaud the courage of a director who makes an offbeat film with Rajpal Yadav as the protagonist. Arora gives the film some nice comic touches and a solid feel good factor without bending backwards to do so. Yadav is perfectly cast as the small town nerd, and comes up with an excellent performance—Arora is able to control his tendency to overact. Rituparna Sengupta and Kay Kay Menon (not playing a growling negative character for a change) do their parts well. But some of the good performance come from unknown actors cast in tiny parts – like the woman who plays Mithilesh’s mother, and the library assistant – who look like they were plucked out of real life.


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