Director: Charudutt Acharya
Actors: Rhea Chakroborty, Ali Fazal
Javed Akhtar, possibly the finest raconteur in Bollywood, once said that there are two things you need to make a Hindi film: raw stock, and Anupam Kher. It’s been much over a decade since he said that. You don’t always need raw stock to make films anymore. You can shoot them in digital if you like. But clearly you can’t make a Hindi movie without Anupam Kher still. Or at least that’s the sense I got walking into the theatre past the poster of Ekis Topon Ki Salaami (last week’s release) and Shaukeen’s remake, which will be out soon. Both star Anupam Kher. As have so many releases this year, let alone last and the many years before. As an actor, no doubt a fine one, it almost seems like he clones himself to appear simultaneously in so many movies.
Kher plays a business tycoon in this picture with an ear-bud perennially attached to one ear. When in a bad mood, which he is always in, he attempts to yank off the ears of his main MBA type corporate executive. He runs an empire called Shining, which is possibly the house of Tatas, Ambanis and the Birlas, all rolled into one. Shining deals in everything from bottled water to broadband Internet connections.
Sonali Cable that this film is named after, is in turn named after a girl called Sonali (Rhea Chakroborty) who runs a boutique cable service that provides broadband network to quite a few homes in and around Worli in Bombay. Sonali Cable’s customers are satisfied with the service. They can put a face and name to their provider. There is a human touch, which is never true for when you have to deal with large companies offering similar services at even lower rates.
Shining wishes to finish off Sonali: “Shining, Sonali,” Sonali, Shining,” is pretty much all you hear throughout the film as the big corporation hires goons, effects transfers in the police station, executes a murder, almost turns the politics of Maharashtra and New Delhi on its head, so they can supply Internet to 3,000 homes. It’s hard to fully ascertain exactly when and where this film about a two-company economy is set.
The protagonist belongs to a welcome trend in Bollywood where an independent-minded, female lead character (Mardaani, Mary Kom, Bobby Jasoos etc.) takes on the bad, bad man’s world. There are some good men of course (Ali Fazal’s character, for instance, who is a partner in the small cable company and is a politician’s son). The good people, most of them bumblers, are from the under-classes, as is the heroine, speaking in a severely affected Marathi twang that is more commonly heard in the movies than on the streets of mid-town Mumbai. The female David is up against the gigantic Goliath. The reason Sonali loves the cable business, she says, is because she likes visiting people’s homes: “Gharon mein maa ki khushboo hoti hai, jo mere ghar mein nahin hai.”
This is a low-budget indie type film, albeit produced by makers of Sholay. The sympathies that it seeks from its audience, although far too obvious, are firmly in place. You can see the point of this romantic pic: “Ek cheeti bhi haathi ko disco kara sakta hai,” is a recurring line. It makes a statement against predatory ways of large-scale corporate enterprises.
You can as easily sense why the intentions of this award-wining screenplay are lost in the lameness on the screen. Meanwhile the villain, Kher the corporate shark, chomps on khakras and orders his white woman assistant around. This is hardly funny. The film isn’t realistic either. You just wish to know what is it that the filmmakers don’t understand better: how big businesses operate or how to make an entertaining enough film. At least if they could’ve taken care of the latter, you could attempt a free viewing on cable.