By Hindustan Times
Director: Kiran Rao
Actors: Prateik, Aamir Khan, Monica Dogra
Munna (Prateik, immeasurably natural), Shai (Monica, easygoing) dig into keema pav at a local Irani cafe. The boy’s handsome. The girl’s hot. The two would yet make for a weird couple at a restaurant in Mumbai.
The boy’s reticent, restrained, quiet, burdened by the finality of his class. He’s poor, from Darbhanga district in Bihar, a dhobi (washer-man, a profession that doesn’t exist in the First World anymore). He services Mumbai’s rich.
The girl’s chic, a non-resident Indian banker. She can afford luxuries like, what the Americans call a “sabbatical”, long leave to pursue passions like photography. A deracinated worldview accessed from the West alone, I suppose, allows her to share tea, hang out, make relaxed conversations with the boy as an equal. They’re still boy and girl. She fits in. He never forgets his boundaries. The connect remains warmly odd, oddly real, incredibly satisfying.
The film is about 90 minutes long. There is still time to observe this delicate chemistry gently play out between the two. Which storyteller will want their audiences to suddenly switch off? There is no interval. Script finally wins over the great Indian extortionist cinema snack counter. Finally!
At that Irani café, the girls asks the boy about a common acquaintance --client of Munna’s -- Arun, a middle aged artist (Aamir Khan: admirable move for a mainstream super-star in this subdued a part, though probably a miscast for the same reasons). The boy tells her about how that man was married once, he has kids in Australia, they had an ugly breakup, for days he wouldn’t open his door… The girl’s excessively inquisitive. “What happened (to him) then?” she asks. “Nothing,” the boy shrugs.
Nothing of terrible national significance happens through much of the movie either. To a lot of film buffs, a picture is probably a ‘pacy’ plot: there’s little of it here. Drama is in the expressed emotions alone: there’s minimalism onscreen, you may not even notice the subtle background score. Th