Sui Dhaaga Review
As a filmmaker, how do you follow up a gem-like, heartfelt debut film with fully realized, colorful characters and a meaningful message told with utmost sincerity? By making a gem-like, heartfelt sophomore film with fully realized, colorful characters and a meaningful message told with utmost sincerity.
Writer-director Sharat Katariya's Sui Dhaaga goes the trending trend way, with a well-publicized message of nationalism told by well-established stars. But the area where his film towers heads and shoulders above countless recent national flag-waving efforts by Akshay Kumar is the fact that the message, much like the one in Katariya's Dum Laga Ke Haisha, is expressed as an incidental part of the story of 2 people, not with the express purpose of stoking manipulated sentiments of jingoism.
Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma star as a newly married couple looking for intimacy and a means of livelihood to pay for his mother's heart surgery and for life after his father's (un)timely retirement. The problem is that Dhawan's Mauji is mostly a talentless slacker who mostly makes money pretending to be various animals of the wild for the sick pleasure of his boss' son. His only talent is tailor-made to be a tailor. The rest of the film is the journey of this awkward, shy couple as they go from unemployed to self-employed.
Katariya once again shows admirable restraint, both in his writing and direction, both in terms of the pacing and bollywood's usual penchant for melodrama. He's never distracted by the excessive song-and-dance trappings and is in complete command of the perfect bittersweet tone that is always so hard to keep going. His narrative once again remains steadfastly on the optimistic side as he keeps the relationships bubbling while keeping the plot moving, giving each of the main 4 characters their moments to shine and fulfilling archs from start to end that feel distinctly their own.
He peppers his screenplay with wonderfully simplistic tertiary characters that make the world they inhabit all the more plausible and easier for the audience to feel like a part of the community that is full of people good, bad and grey. Katariya as a writer understands that the best characters are never just one-line descriptions but living, breathing people with their own set of mannerisms, insecurities and a set of values that are uniquely their own. From Mauji's embarrassed glee while barking and pawing like a dog to Mamta's way of constantly pulling at her dupatta draped over her head or her faded, chipped nailpaint that indicate her hands are put to use more to make food at home than on personal beauty routines.
What's immensely pleasing in Katariya's second film once again is his own brand of gender equality. Both Mauji and his wife Mamta have their respective roles to play, roles that the other simply could not fulfill due to the thought and care that has been put into developing the characters and the dynamic of their relationship. The husband might be the face of the enterprise but the wife is surely the brains, from the planting of the business seed to the ideas on how to proceed further. If Mauji is the hothead who manages to fight his way into and out of trouble, Mamta is his smarter, calmer partner who chooses pride and dignity over a few extra nickels.
The performances that the director manages to extract from a full cast of talented actors is no less of a feat. Dhawan is adorable and sincere, embodying the attitude of "sab badiya hai" until it isn't. From being saccharine sweet to emotionally exhausted and then back, Dhawan makes the journey with the smoothness of a an actor who knows he's in the character's head and in acting form that Ranbir Kapoor would give up a few girlfriends for. Anushka has never looked less like herself and more like the part that she's playing. A big credit goes to the makeup and costume designers but that in no way can undermine the brilliant performance she gives, trapped between being her husband's strength and the natural meekness women are supposed to exhibit in our society. Raghubir Yadav and Yamini Das are a joy as the naturally melodramatic but adorable parents. Every single supporting character is perfectly cast and just as perfectly performed.
One of the most unforgettable shots in the film for me is when we see Mamta's feet scurry along somewhere till they reach Mauji's, who is walking ahead. But as soon as she reaches him, they fall in perfect step with each other. That one shot pretty much defines the film: simple, effective, emotionally uplifting yet never manipulative. If there has been a Hindi film this year that has managed to keep me constantly smiling like an idiot yet always on the verge of tears the way this Sharat Katariya film does, I do not remember it. What I shall not forget is to recommend that you should take everyone you know and go watch Sui Dhaaga as soon as possible, so you can then rewatch it again later.
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