Saturday, August 25, 2012

Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi 

Bawa Trips
Considering the tiny number of Parsis, it’s odd that two mainstream films have been made about them in one year.  There was Ferrari Ki Sawaari and now Bela Bhansali Sehgal’s debut Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi. One suspects it’s more because of the comic potential of the ‘mad bawa’ stereotype filmmakers are so fond of.  There’s probably also the lure of well-preserved, antique-filled homes for production designers.

Shirin Farhad.... (awful title, suggesting raunchiness that the film does not have) is interesting for placing a middle-aged romance at its centre and dragging Farah Khan to play the lead role. Boman Irani, of course, is a perfect fit as a 45-year-old mamma’s boy Farhad Pastakia, whose work as a lingerie salesman ostensibly forces single status on him.  Not clear why it is so terrible, or why he doesn’t look for another job if it is such a problem.

He lives in a typical Parsi Baug with his perpetually huffy mother (Daisy Irani), grandmother (Shammi) and a dotty uncle (Soli Marker), who keeps writing love letters to Indira (Gandhi) because she married the wrong Feroz. Typically again, he has an old side-car scooter.

Place a film among Parsis, and it veers from excessively crazy to cloyingly cute.  In the midst of a whole bunch of brawling Parsis (three such scenes), the late-bloomer love story of Farhad with the spirited Shirin Fuggawala (Farah Khan) takes a bit of a backseat.  Their possible loneliness, fear of singledom, tentative drawing together is flattened under all that ambient hilarity (a long sequence about the uncle not being able to pass gas!) which is amusing, but takes away from the joy of the romance between these two sweet people, who face a daily battering from well-meaning relatives for their unmarried status, in an already dwindling community. The lack of credible conflict in the love story is also jarring.

Still, it is not without charm—Boman Irani’s utter sincerity and pitch-perfect performance and the warmth that comes across his scenes with Farah Khan makes it worth a look. She is not an actress, so there is a certain effortlessness about her style of acting, that is endearing.  Sehgal has also gathered together a stellar cast of Parsi actors—from Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal, Dinyar Contractor and Soli Marker to Sorab Ardeshir, Kurush Deboo, Rushad Rana and Nauheed Cyrusi.

The film is enjoyable in parts but there’s also the constant niggle that it could have been so much more. How many filmmakers are lucky enough to get an opportunity to make films without bowing to commercial diktats; which is why this film had to work that much harder and not go for easy laughs.


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