By Subhash K. Jha
Film: "Do Dooni Chaar"; Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Aditi Vasudev and Archit Krishna; Writer-Director: Habib Faizal; Rating: ***
In a season of overblown action-comedies with superstars laying down the ground rules for dynamic dadagiri on the large screen, it is refreshing and comforting to see an aging world-weary working-class hero who travels to work on a rickety scooter and tries to fulfil his nuclear family's dreams of a car.
The journey from the two-wheeler to the four is what "Do Dooni Chaar" is about. It's a simple premise peppered and punctuated by scenes and dialogues straight out of a Punjabi middle-class household in Delhi where the two grownup kids dream of BMWs and IPL shares, while the father tries to put together money for an Alto car and chicken meals for his family.
The film, directed by debutant Habib Faizal, has a heartwarming slice-of-life feel to it. Rishi Kapoor, playing a working-class loser for the first time in his career pitches in a near-flawless performance as a maths teacher whose students have gone on to own the best cars in the world while he, the gyan guru, remains frozen in his middle-class karma.
Mercifully, the neatly scripted but at times a little under-done film opts not to focus on the irony of a knowledge-giver's financial burdens. Instead, the plot cleverly digs out situations where the Duggal family is shown getting into comic crises, such as the wedding at Rishi's sister's in-laws' place where the Duggal parivar has to show up in a borrowed car.
These situations written sensibly and enacted convincingly echo the savagery of life for the workingclass without wasting time feeling sorry for the characters.
Not just Rishi's character, even his wife, played by the lovely Neetu, comes across as unfussy, practical and sensible householder who makes ends meet not by the size of her husband's income, but by a miraculous mix of common sense and uncommon guts.
It's a pleasure beyond measure to watch Rishi and Neetu play their real-life roles on screen. For those of us who watched the pair do "Khullam khulla pyar" in their heydays, watching them slip effortlessly into the roles of harried parents seems like a journey well taken.
Add the two teenage actors playing Rishi-Neetu's son (Archit Krishna) and daughter (Aditi Vasudev) into the plot. And we are face-to-face with as real a family as it can get in a quirky whimsical earthy and heartwarming saga of a workingclass family's promotion in life from the scooter to the automobile.
The script sometimes careens towards a scathing comment on the road taken by the underpaid teaching fraternity country. Blessedly Rishi, one of the finest and most underrated actors of our country, plays Santosh Duggal as a bit of a rogue, not averse to shortcuts when the going gets really tough.
The humanisation and under-idealisation of the knowledge-giver is a clever touch in the script. The debutant director demonstrates substantial scripting skills in the way he leads his protagonist up the road of corruption and then pulls him back from temptation just in time.
On a level that goes beyond entertainment, "Do Dooni Chaar" is actually a timely warning to the architects of the country's education system. The film says… don't let the guru (teacher) become a shishya (pupil) of compromised idealism. Pay the teacher well. On the other hand, if such a reform in the educationalist's lives really happened, we wouldn't have the pleasure of seeing Rishi Kapoor deliver such a lived-in bravura performance.
Go for "Do Dooni Chaar". Its title says it all, suggesting not only that the protagonist is a mathematician but also that he is constantly trying to count the ways to make his family's life comfortable.
Here, it all adds up.
Bollywood.com Rating: 3