Mayank Shekhar's review: Bubble Gum

By Hindustan Times

Bubble Gum
Direction: Sanjeevan Lal
Actors: Sohail Lakhani, Apurva Arora
Rating: ***

Boys eye girls their age, mark one of them as their own (in their head: “book karke rakha hai”), hope to eventually score
someone for real, to legally announce her as their “GF” (girlfriend): the decisive 'neighbour’s envy'. Girls, demure, yet aware of all the male attention, juggle several boys at once. They play hard to get. Yet keep all hopes alive.

“Joint study”, after school hours, is good meeting point for such extra-curricular activities: basically inane, awkward conversations between the boy, the girl, and her best friend. Things get better from there on. The film’s narrator tells us, “Aajkal haath pakadna aam baat hai (These days, it’s not a big deal to hold hands).” Back then, there was only one legit excuse to steal a feminine touch: “hamara rashtriya khel” (our national sport), kabaddi! This is what the boys get together with girls for in the evenings, sucking on Phantom, the peppermint cigarette, which immediately stands out for the ultimate in cool. They cycle around otherwise. The festival Holi is what everyone’s gearing up for now. There’s plenty of space for everything.

Roads are wide, clean, rarely congested. These children, of roughly the same economic classes, studying in the same school, growing up among assorted uncles and aunties, aren’t neighbours in a crummy housing society. The town itself is their vast playground. A local ‘club’ is their affordable restaurant.

India’s industrial townships, namely Bhilai, Bokaro etc, are this nation’s closest approximations to the American suburban life. This film recognises that. The kids here belong to Jamshedpur. It’s a Tata town, which also makes steel (and recently made for smart setting for the indie hit, Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan). The people on screen also belong to an era of middle class India, which looks unrecognisable, only about 30 years after. It’s roughly the late ‘70s. It seems. Girls devour Linda Goodman. Guys hide the Debonair.

The father (Sachin Khedekar) is an engineer (of course). The mother (Tanvi Azmi) is a schoolteacher. They make for the typically soft, strict Indian parents