Rajma Chawal Review: It Has Its Heartwarming Moments

Rajma Chawal(Netflix)

Starring Rishi Kapoor, Anirudh Tanwar, Amyra Dastur

Directed by Leena  Yadav

Rating: ** *( 3 stars)

The closing song of this sensible but scattered film goes, ‘Mujhe dosti karne ka shauq  hai Mera dil chandni Chowk hai.’

What  is it  about Old Delhi that drives filmmakers crazy with   yearning and nostalgia? So many  memorable and  not-so-memorable films ,from B R Chopra’s Chandni Chowk to Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Delhi 6 to Kabir Khan’s BajrangiBhaijaan  have pitched their tale’s tent  in the crowded gallis  of Chandni Chowk where the sun sets and  the jalebis  never stops sizzling in  the streetside kadhaai.

Here ,Leena Yadav who gave us the brilliant Parched two years ago is  not  as  comfortable dealing with an estranged father-son’s attempts to  iron out their differences as a gaggle of friends and distant relatives in old delhi eggs them on. A tech-savvyBua and her daughter-in-law(played with wonderful charm by Nirmal Rishi and Sheeba  Chaddha)  suggests that the father chat on Facebook with his son.

The scenes where the two ladies set up Rishi Kapoor’s Raj Mathur  on the I-phone with his son Kabir are done with a sense of reined-in fun .

But then it  all comes undone.  The  plot hops skips and  jumps all over the place barely able to avoid  the potholes  it creates for itself. For one  it is hard to swallow that a father would carry on the charade of posing as a girl named Tara on Facebook to  get his son’s attention,  and the son would not come to know of his father’s harebrained scheme even when the father asks his son for headphones after the son offers  to play a song  for ‘Tara’ during their net-chat.

Such  improbabilities  would go unnoticed in  escapist  kitsch. Rajma Chawal aims to be in a more realistic natural space. The problem is , the more it tries the more the plot ties itself into impossible  knots. Midway through the promising but compromised screenplay(Vivek Anchalia, Manurishi Chadha, Leena Yadav) the  film introduces the wild-child character  of Tara(Amyra Dastur),a  homeless nomadic opportunistic adventurer who is befriended by  Raj Mathur and his busybody friends(all played by savvy veterans)  to bring Raj’s son back on the track.

 It really makes no sense  for the patriarch to employ an outsider’s help , paying her  huge amounts of money to do the  needful when he’s allegedly  bankrupt, while the son sulks and sings some   songs with a ragged band that wouldn’t  qualify in the first round of any music contest.

Nonethless Rajma Chawal is not all a  wash-out. The  son’s attachment to his dead mother and the  resultant  hostility towards  his father could have been better explored.The nooks and corners  of Chandni  Chowk are explored with  curious candour , with the very talented Adil Husain showing up in one fleeting scene.

Rishi Kapoor who is never knwn to fail the script barely manages to make the disgruntled father’s role credible. Fatally the actor  Anirudh Tanwar playing Rishi’s son fails to  make his character relatable.And Aparshakti Khurrana who never fails to make an impact scarcely gets a chance to make an impact  in  his loutish revolver-toting loverboy’s role. He does have  one strong moment with the pretty Amyra Dastur(nose ring, and all to  look adequately rebellious) when he confesses she isn’t ‘disgusting’.(She has  just returned  the money she owes him and  I  agree that’s a rare quality).

No such harsh description can be applied to this  film. It is  a sweet if somewhat strained  attempt to make sense of Delhi’s  quasi-diasporic   demagogue. Could have been so much better. But then as a famous poet once declared  Kabhi kissikomuqammal jahaan nahin milta. So let’s look at this unfinished film as representative of the incomplete people it depicts.

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