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Late Night Is A Wonderfully Entertaining Media Satire



Late  Night(Amazon)

Starring Emma Thomson, Mindy  Kaling

Directed  by Nisha Ganatra

Rating: *** ½(3 and ahalf stars)

I can’t recall the  last time when I had  so much LOL fun watching a  film. For one, the imploding  tensions  of  this tale of gender conflict and  descalating aspirations , are set in  a talkshow boardroom where  the magnificent Emma Thomson presides imperiously  surrounded by a  bevy of eager  writers, all male.

To tilt the  sex factor Mindy Kaling, who wrote  this  ‘care’-brushed screenplay, is brought in. Of course  the fact that she is female  and  Asian, is of no consequence.And  of course we  know just how this is  going to go from here.

Significantly the  screenplay doesn’t spend  too much time in showing the way the  relationship between the two  completely  antithetical women  develops. Instead,  director Nisha Ganatra  open up the pulsating polemics to  huge possibilities  of  wicked humour. As Katherine, the talkshow queen  manoeuvres  her  way through rapidly-mutating  workplace ethics(she doesn’t know her writers by name and has a number for each) and her frantic attempts  to win back her  falling relevance(a.k. a TRPs) with a sense of contrite cattiness  befitting  Meryl  Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.

 Emma Thomson, looking uncannily like  an older Manisha  Koirala, plays the benign witch with a  unapologetic yet graceful arrogance .Her scenes with her screen-husband(played by  the  magnificent John Lithgow) show  a marriage that has  gloriously survived a lifetime of challenges. From the evening when  Katherine tells her husband not to die just yet as she was too tired  to attend his  funeral, the film gives us a harvest of  fantastic one-liners  ,all culled from everyday boardroom backchat and yet conveying a freshness  that comes to a narrative only when it knows how to turn firstperson experiences into something universal without losing the sense of intimacy and warmth in the  proceedings.

At times  I  couldn’t tell whether  Mindy Kaling’s writing was mocking or  celebrating gender inequalities  at  workplaces. For  example, that  sequence where Mindy’s  Molly Patel(is ‘Patel’ the  only  surname they could think  of for an Indian girl in Manhattan?) sobs her heart  out under her desk after being reprimanded by Katherine; one of her (male) colleagues comes forward to  console her reminding  Molly  that he  didn’t mean to challenge any of her hard-earned gender privileges.  The  sequence  burst at  the seams with a sharply-realized  ambiguity.

 The real triumph here is in telling a story where  two women take centrestage and address  important gender-related issues(including MeToo) without losing sight  of  the fact that audiences  go to the  movies  to have fun.

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