Hope and a Little Sugar

Hope and a Little Sugar

Source: Sify

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 17/5

Friday 18 April 2008

Movie Title

Hope and a Little Sugar


Tanuja Chandra

Star Cast

Mahima Choudhary, Anupam Kher, Vikram Chatwal, Amit Sial

America, pre-9/11: An NRI Sikh family is in the midst of a celebration. Retired Colonel Oberoi (Anupam Kher) makes a theatrical entry presenting his famous ?adaraki, lasooni, mango chicken?. The boisterous party breaks into an impromptu applause and the mood is set for revelry. Through the party, the Colonel makes his wife blush with old anecdotes and forces upon the restless audience, his trademark war stories. This and many such slice-of-life moments infuse the film with warmth and credibility; half the challenge won.

Thereafter we?re introduced to the gregarious Colonel?s son Harry (Vikram Chatwal), very much in love with his wife Saloni (Mahima Chaudhry). The couple, through chance and a mistaken identity meet quiet, pensive photographer Ali Siddiqui (Amit Sial). While photographing the family, Ali falls for Saloni but doesn?t make a move knowing she?s married. Saloni runs a sweets and flower shop called Hope and a Little Sugar and thereby the title. Explains Saloni while feeding Ali her famous cham cham, that most problems and negatives only need hope and bit of sugar to set things right. A debatable thought, though one does remember the importance of a bar of chocolate while swimming through a trying day. So there may be a point here; but more about that later.

Things are normal until one deceptively normal morning changes everything. It?s the 9th of September, 2001, and America wakes up to see the Twin Towers brought to its knees by suicide terrorists. With Harry having left for work in the same building, the family jumps to panic. As hours turn into days, it becomes apparent that their beloved is no more.

The family settles in the newly empty home and each member tries to cope with the realisation and pain in their own way. While the mother is devastated, she has another worry in her husband who?s becoming a different person. The Colonel refuses to acknowledge his son?s death, and instead attacks anyone who suggests he accept Harry?s demise. ?He could have lost his memory and may be wandering on the streets,? reasons the wretchedly devastated father of the son who was working on the exact floor the plane hit. Saloni meanwhile is torn between mourning for her husband and finding hope of a new life in Ali?s concern and affection.

Apart from observing relationships and how they develop after a calamity strikes a family, the film questions racism and intolerance at various levels. Especially when the Colonel?s general dislike of Muslims turns into biting hate after 9/11. And how he begins to question his own blind hatred after he is attacked by a group of Americans for wearing a turban.

Hope and a Little Sugaris short, sweet and says what it wants to without indulging in complex dialogues or extraneous sub-plots. With the problems facing the word today, it seems ludicrous and overtly simplistic to suggest that hope and a little sugar is all you need; but come to think of it, neither ever hurt any body. This is what the film says unapologetically, and you do listen, for its earnestness.

Technically, the film is on par with international productions. Background music is fantastic (Wayne Sharpe, Filmfare Award winner for Gangaajal). Cinematography by Nirmal Jani (Tanuja Chandra?s Dushman and Sur, among other films) is extremely competent as well. Editing by Hilary Peabody makes sure the story flows and develops smoothly.

But the cream is the super-strong performance quotient of the film. Anupam Kher is marvelous in tackling the entire range of his character from a jovial Colonel to a spiteful dad-in-denial. Suhasini Mulay is also fantastic as Harry?s mother who begins fearing her husband for his extreme stance. Mahima Chaudhry is a revelation. She looks a stunner and her performance is worth kudos many times over. Theatre actor and big-screen debutant Amit Sial is perfect for the role of the steady-headed, reticent photographer. Director Tanuja Chandra mentioned during a chat with this writer, that she wanted an actor who radiated `calm? for Ali?s character and you can see why she penciled in on Sial.

And one must mention the strong hand of direction by Tanuja Chandra here. Note scenes like the family scuffle between Colonel and Ali in the second half and the ones between the retired couple, post-Harry?s demise for a taste of superb filmmaking. All these characters have very realistic, difficult shades to them and Chandra does a mean job of motivating her actors into internalising their characters.

One rues that the film has not been publicised enough. Perhaps with worldwide accolades and the film?s win at the South Asian International Film Festival, the makers are hoping the film will run by word-of mouth. One does hope so too, as this film truly deserves to be seen.

Verdict: Three and a half stars.

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