TAB TOH MAR JAANA HEE ACHHA!
A successful author, Aalia is about to be felicitated at the White House when she hears sad news and rushed back to India. The story of her life is told in flashback and shows everything: Aalia as a young girl who dreams in poetry and is in love with a young man to Aaalia the woman married forcibly into a royal family to a runaway pregnant woman who finds her feet in Bombay, becomes a mother and then lands a job in New York. After 170 minutes, when you wonder about the point of it all, there is a funeral and the movie ends.
When you see the twin towers intact in New York, you realise that not only is the heroine Aalia’s story (played literally wide-eyed by Manjari Fadnis) is in flashback, but the city has literally traveled in time. But you know they must have had to keep the film under the lid… And they forgot that the universe was sending them signals, to keep a film (that is 170 minutes long) there.
But if you can believe the story, then you will believe that the moon is made of cheese.
She’s an author of bestselling books and ‘many Pulitzer prizes’. She is to be felicitated by the American president when she runs out of the White House without accepting her award and the secret service finds her a cab. She has come to the White House with her husband (Arbaaz Khan) and a White Male (not a speaking role, hence). She runs out alone, but at the airport the same White Male hands her tickets, passport and luggage.
We realise she has landed in Rajasthan because the large mustachioed man bows to her with a traditional Rajasthani greeting. She travels straight to the place where the body is being mourned. It is Laxmi (Supriya Pathak), the palace housekeeper/maid who has taken care of her.
In the flashback, a painfully slow flashback, we see how young Aalia is ignored and mistreated by her own parents for being a girl. You wonder why and suddenly see her in college, romancing (yes, reluctantly at first, like all good Bollywood girls do) a young lad (Himansh Kohli), and also being favorite of the Principal (who hams it like he were a country cousin to Anupam Kher’s Principal from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai) who sends her to meet the ‘world famous’ maharaja Kunwar Vikram Pratap Singh (Ashutosh Rana) who is given to bouts of weird villainous laughter every three or four minutes. He plays pool in a car garage and entertains ‘guests’ in a room that has model cars hanging from the ceiling in transparent globes. But the antiques in his palace is nothing, nothing compared to the antiques surrounding the editor of the newspaper/magazine in Bombay…
But first, our heroine goes to interview the maharaja for her college magazine at the directions of her principal. The maharaja is rude to her ‘beautiful girls should not be interviewing’ and refuses to talk to her. She comes away in a huff, but the maharaja apparently liked her huffing and sends in a typed interview to the principal and also buys her off from her parents who remind us that being bought off by the maharaja is the only thing ‘good’ she has ever done.
Thankfully we are spared of a wedding scene because we see the heroine arrive at the palace on an elephant with the maharaja. Here we meet Laxmi, who says she is ‘all knowing’ and that woman-kind should accept fate even if it is in the shape of the lustful (for other women), cruel (he kicks servants) maharaja. Poor Supriya Pathak! Reduced to such a terrible role! Laxmi then suddenly becomes champion of women’s rights, teaching women to beat up husbands who beat them, telling other women to stand on their own feet, and finally helping Aalia escape the maharaja who wants the female child (yes the heroine is pregnant) aborted.
If you are still awake, you watch Aalia wander the streets of Mumbai, manage to reach a home for the homeless, begin working there, living there, look for a job, find a job at the Urdu newspaper by pronouncing the word ‘life’ (‘Zindagi’ in Urdu) correctly. The newspaper is run by an antique collecting Prem Chopra who has a supposed to be comic relief secretary and journalist (who takes dictation of poetry (don’t ask!). This newspaper/magazine has an office filled to the gills with dusty bundles of old newspaper. Of course our heroine turns into a ‘feminist champion of poor people’s rights)’ because she yells at the organisers of a blanket and food drive for making poor women wait in the Sun while they give speeches. The man she yells at is Aditya Kapoor (Arbaaz Khan), the multi millionaire NRI, who is so impressed by her, he follows her to the shelter and takes her to the old folks home (where between reviving a heart patient and donating money he asks her out on a date!). Of course she says no, because at last she has had a baby (she has been pregnant so far) and she needs to be strict mother. We never see the mother when she gets a job offer from Manhattan Times.
Manhattan Times? Why not? From dusty unknown gossip rag to New York, New York. The child appears magically and disappears conveniently when Aalia is sent off to interview people caught in the war in the Middle East (the ‘Pulitzers’, remember?). But the bitchy office colleagues say she has been promoted because she sleeps with the board member, who happens to be - you guessed right - Aditya Kapoor. You are still recovering from the visual of Aalia taking notes in a notebook in the Middle East flanked by two camels to care now…
She prances in a dream sequence song in a dress and you feel your pulse slowly die. You wonder if young women are really dreaming about dancing on the clouds and sinking in rose petals today, simple because the really, really rich NRI has confessed his love for her. No wonder Laxmi is dead.
(This review appears on nowrunning dot com)