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Times of India
A riveting take on love, longing and loneliness…
An anthology of three loosely connected stories set in Mumbai, the tragicomedy is a satirical take on keeping up with the unforgiving pace, work culture and unyielding demands of the maximum city.
Mumbai has been the muse of various filmmakers for the longest time. The pulse of the metropolis is the indomitable spirit of Mumbaikars, who rise like a phoenix against adversity, every single time. However, the much celebrated resilience is not always by choice.
Ruchika Oberoi’s film explores this tangled ‘Mumbai state of mind’ through its three unique characters — a middle-aged bachelor stuck in a mundane job (Vinay Pathak), a housewife (Amruta Subhash) finding joy in tragedy and a plain Jane seeking ‘real’ love (Tannishtha Chatterjee). The three stories have little in common, except for the constant feeling of being caged and buried under societal and financial pressures. Every character seeks freedom.
Vinay Pathak’s track mocks the ‘dictatorial’ policies of posh corporates. The management assigns a special programme for its star employees, where they are forced to have ‘fun’. This one’s bound to strike a chord with most working professionals. The second track is a heartrending account of a housewife (Amruta Subhash), who heaves a sigh of relief, after her husband is hospitalised as his opinions no longer cloud her mind. His absence makes her feel worthy, for a change. Every woman who is told she won’t ever get her prince charming because she is not good-looking enough can relate to the film’s final story, featuring Tannishtha.
Poignant and melancholic, Ruchika helps you in finding your voice amidst the chaos of the city. Her vision mirrors the gamut of emotions every Mumbaikar feels at some point in his/her life. It addresses the brooding sadness that lurks in the deepest corners of our heart. While all actors perform well, it is Amruta Subhash, who stands out with her expression of quiet optimism in dire circumstances. While the execution is effective, the length of the stories may test your patience somewhere. We wish they were crisper. Overall, this one deserves to be watched for its riveting take on love, longing and loneliness.
Our overall critics rating is not an average of the sub score below.
It's difficult to place an experience like this. In the three elliptically connected short stories, it voices collectively the tragedies of a mundane job, an abusive marriage and urban loneliness. Dodging the pitfalls of black comedies, it parodies the pain many internalise or come to accept. It capitalises on the unexpected like the cinema of Michel Gondry (of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame) and pushes the zany meter like Spike Jonze's Her. But it largely wins for how it draws pleasure from the odd, inappropriate moment.
The first opens to an Office Space-like setup. Suyash Chaturvedi (Vinay Pathak) is a middle-aged staffer at Systematic Statistics, a firm that wants its employees to embrace its motto 'organisation, orderliness and obedience', its tagline — Fun, Frolic, Festivity — booming out of the office speakers like an Akashwani. A 'scientific study' pins the company's sinking productivity on employees not having enough fun. So, a 'fun committee' is set up and the employee of the month is sent down the rabbit hole on a mission to have fun, armed with 'fun coupons'.
Things take a turn when Suyash's coupon envelope gets swapped with that of a terrorist. Needless to say, a massacre follows, which influences the next story about another Systematic Statistics staffer, Anil (Bhushan Vikas). When he slips into a coma following a mishap, his submissive wife Sarita (Amruta Subhash) and mother (Uttara Baokar) use this period to sate their suppressed desires. Between hosting 'wellwishers' who drop in to sympathise over slurps of chai, the saasbahu are drawn to a telly soap, Purushottam, whose eponymous lead (Samir Kochhar) epitomises the adarsh husband and son. The two are so charmed by the small screen icon, that he takes precedence over the man in their life — tied to tubes in a hospital. The third one, the weakest in this triptych, toys with the imagination of a printing press hand, Aarti Patel (Tannishtha Chatterjee), when she receives an anonymous love letter. Arranged to be married to garage help Jignesh (Chandan Roy Sanyal), Aarti hopes for an undekha anjana who would sweep her off her feet. This one wraps up with a forced twist — possibly added to establish the chain.
Vinay Pathak ditches the loud and laboured desi Forest Gump that he usually plays to essay a cog in the wheel who turns into a monster. Amruta Subhash, the most talented from this cast, layers her Sarita with a lingering vulnerability and a glimmer of guilt in seeking out what she truly desires. Tannishtha internalises her character's loneliness sensitively. Writer-director Ruchika Oberoi's Fedora prize at last year's Venice Film Festival for Island City is well-deserved. Her approach to storytelling could be variously inspired by many, but she delivers on the style and format to make this a compelling watch. Cinematographer Sylvester Fonseca unsparingly captures the proceedings of this dramedy and frames his scenes to narrow our visual priorities.
Celluloid tributes to maximum city have been skewed towards urban problems, where those grappling with them were reduced to mere props. But here, the infamous island plays a peripheral role, while its residents take centre-stage. This sensitises us to their sufferings, albeit through a satirical lens.