Milan Talkies, Tigmanshu’s Tenderest Tale

Milan Talkies

Starring: Ali Faizal, Shraddha Srinath, Ashutosh Rana,Tigmanshu Dhulia, Sanjai Mishra

Directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia

Rating: ****(4 stars)

“I’ve heard,” says  the inexperienced  lover-boy, “that in the beginning  of a romance there  is a lot of sex.And then  it wears  down to just once in a while  on Karwa Chauth or  whatever.”

Hearing Ali Fazal drawl these words of artless candour in the projection room of a single-theatre in  Allahabad,  is  a pleasure  beyond   measure.

Milan  Talkies a  spiffily written  expertly enacted smalltown hormonal  romance with the juices  trickling down its frames. It conveys just the  right ingredients of   smothered passion and  unabashed swagger  to make the  proceedings pungent and real.

 In fact  the writing(Dhulia and  Kamal Pandey) is  much cleverer and wittier than  what it seems.

 There  is  exchange at a crucial  point  in the  narration where  a  character asks  the hero’s friends—a butcher  by profession—“Tu  itna PAK-PAK kyon kar raha hai?”
All through the  playing-time  of this tightly-wound but  loosely-structured  love story I  was sure  of  one thing.That this  is Tigmanshu’s most accomplished work since Paan SinghTomar—smartly written, wisely  punctuated  and  sharply cut,  it  does everything  right  even the  characters  go  horribly wrong  in their judgment.Watch the magnificent  AshutoshRana   bellow against  destiny when he  curses  the day he married off his  daughter to an impotent  goonda.It’s  a  moment  of  reckoning in a  film that revels in revelations, none  surprising but all  delightful.

 There  is  no doubt on  our minds  that the  small-town lovers  would  be finally  united intrueblue filmy fashion in this  film filled with filmy  characters, none more filmy that  wannabe filmmaker hero’s father played with sassy self-mockery by director TigmanshuDhulia. The  director plays  the hero’s father as  a man lost in the  movies  of  the 1970s  not  quite connected with the real world outside and hence  frozen in a  childlike state  of  existence.

 It’s a fascinating study of how Hindi cinema  impacts and influences  smalltown lives, done with dollops  of  brusque  humour  and  tongue-in-cheek drama.Till midpoint  Dhulia builds the budding romance between  Ali Fazal and debutante Shraddha Srinath(both  charming ,together and apart  though neither is as  exceptional as  the supporting  cast )  like scenes borrowed  from the collective  consciousness of a film-obsessed  society.

But beneath the  vigorous filminess there is the  underbelly of  societal maladies represented in the clash between  the heroine’s conservative  father and loutish  husband. The two  roles are brilliantly manoeuvred  by  Ashutosh Rana and Sikandar  Kher into  areas of  darkness  and then steered expertly  back into the orbit of  light.

 But do not confuse  the  light for lightness. For, even as the  romance grows in the second-half into a  Devdas-remixed,  that  core of buoyant rumination courses through the  film’s veins imbuing the central  romance with energy and grace.

Milan Talkies is  a delightful watch,much of its  joy derived from  packing  in  tropes and clichés  from Hindi  films  and re-packaging them with  renewed  vivacity. No assessment  of this  tender tale told in  loops of  hectic reconnaissance  can be complete without a mention of Sanjai Mishra’s  role as  Usman the film projectionist at  the eponymous  Milan Talkies where  a very crucial part  of the  romantic reunion unfolds.

Mishra  plays  a  kind of reluctant sutradhaar  who  becomes  a pivotal character  in a romance  played  out with spectacular ebullience  in Allahabad where goons masquerade as  moral  police , castrating Romeos to  protect  the Juliets,  and  provincial  filmmakers  dream  of   making it  big  in  Bollywood.

Just like  Tigmanshu Dhulia himself the  boy from Allahabad who made it  big in Bollywood .  Milan Talkies tells us  it is okay to dream of  creating your own Mughal-e-Azam  in  real and real life.  Because you never know  who is  watching.

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