At this year's Mumbai Film Festival, I chanced upon a lovely Slovenian film called Good To Go about a man who unwillingly checks into an old-age home. The tagline of the film goes - 'Meet a man who's dying to get back to life'. It's ironic that he comes of age, and finally starts having fun for the first time in his life. Bereft of emotional tricks to make us feel for this character, the film has you riveted throughout.
In Hindi cinema, you rarely see films revolving around senior citizens. And when you do - like Baghban - it is a complete manipulative tear-fest.
So it's refreshing to see this 60+ gang living it up. You have the lonely army man who doesn't tire of telling the same combat stories, the bad-joke loving retired income tax man, the stingy share market expert and so on. And binding this group together is the jovial and loud Gujarati businessman Manubhai (Raghubir Yadav).
Where their kids have forgotten them and moved on, these senior citizens form a family of sorts-playing tennis daily at the club, and good-naturedly ribbing each other over breakfast. It's fun to see these people fight over who's going to get the bill, or argue over a single point in the game.
Tariq (Farooq Sheikh) and Saira (Sarika), a doctor couple, have just shifted to a new address, and find their neighbour Manubhai an "imposing, impudent idiot". With his persistence, the couple, mourning their son's demise, is slowly drawn into this world.
So far, so good. Sadly, it's all downhill from here.
Director Sanjay Tripathy, in his enthusiasm to show how this gang is living it up, makes them behave outlandishly. Their character quirks are showcased repetitively. One thought the best part of growing up was having the good sense to not act insufferably. Sadly that's the mantra here.
So you have Manubhai, wearing sex-crazed T-shirts, honking whenever he sees young girls, and the men talking about ogling at women. The Hugh Hefner wannabes don't end up looking cool. They end up looking pathetic.
Surely there are other ways of enjoying life, and the company of women, without putting up suggestive pictures on your car, flirting with the nurse, or trying to pick up a stranger at the bar (despite having a girlfriend).
Farooq Sheikh and Sarika redeem the film somewhat. Theirs is a beautiful relationship filled with friendship, love and respect. Farooq and Sarika give such heartfelt performances, that despite the lack of finesse in the storytelling, you're taken in. You are willing to invest emotionally in the grieving Tariq and his wife Saira who feels guilty for having come to terms with her son's death.
The film also works when we see the tragedies each of them has faced - the loneliness of one, the hurt of being ignored by their married son, the trauma of a child who committed suicide and so on. However, one wishes these stories were told with more conviction, instead of ODing on the tragedy aspect.
Raghubir Yadav, a highly talented actor, is made to dress gaudily and shout out his dialogues most of the time. The rest of the cast does well, but is again made to ham a little.
The finale is everything one feared it would turn out to be. Riddled with emotional melodrama and cliches, one wishes the filmmaker had kept things more subtle.
The film is well-intentioned, and does have a few heartfelt moments that draw you in. But that's little respite in the otherwise muddled film.
Rating: 2 stars