The premise of a poor man meets princess is an ancient fairy tale. And we've already seen Highway where a poor little rich girl runs away from home and meets a poor man with a heart of gold...It's just that both these films are so implausible you begin to realise fairy tales in real life have gory endings.
A street photographer Rafi (played brilliantly by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) takes pictures of tourists at the Gateway of India. He takes a picture of a young girl Meloni (played by Sanya Malhotra, who was probably told to play the role without any expression), who walks off with the photograph, and forgets to pay him. Meloni belongs to a well-to-do Gujarati family and is studying to become a Chartered Accountant. In fact, she is a topper in the first year exams. She is quiet and participates in conversations at home only with a yes or no. Rafi spots a billboard with Meloni's photograph among the exam toppers and tracks her down to the coaching institute. Explains that he sent his old granny Meloni's photo on a whim (his granny has been pestering him to get married by telling all and sundry to find Rafi a bride), and that granny has decided to show up in Bombay wanting to meet the girl.
No one understands why Meloni agrees. And you watch as she suddenly begins to be fascinated by this strange new world. In other words, this is poverty porn. She is no different from the tourists who visit slums (now a featured attraction). There seems to be no motive for her to want to live in poverty, no matter how good a guy Rafi is. She has tea with him, eats a granita from a street vendor (and promptly falls sick), goes on taxi rides with Rafi, even goes to the cinema with him. It's when she goes to his home when granny is not there, I wondered about her intelligence. Bombay is a safe enough place, but what if the stalker photographer (that's how he finds her!) turns out to be a rapist?
The film gets really tedious because there's nothing more to this fascination with poverty. Nawazuddin begins to preen and it's cute up to a point because the class divide between them is great. But it looks like there was no script to the film and everyone was just winging it. The dialogues get more and more stilted. Farrukh Jaffar as granny is delightful with her quick change of temper and stories she has, but when you hear her go on and on about 'maa ka dil' (a mother's heart) you just want to say, 'Shut up granny!'. The lack of a scriptwriter is acutely felt. Some scenes look like they needed to come with Spark Notes. For example: Meloni's feet are shown in a close up at least five times. It reminds you of the embarrassed heroines of yesteryear, who would scratch the ground with their toes. But why are we seeing her feet so many times?
Jim Sarbh playing a pervert again is groan worthy. Sachin Khedekar and Geetanjali Kulkarni are not best utilised. But Vijay Raaz shows up as a ghost who walks the creaking floorboards in one scene and steals the show. Rafi's poor friends all have hearts of gold, and the poverty becomes tedious to watch after a while. The movie pretends to be arty but the patchy story that goes round and round will not work with the multiplex audience. This film should have gone into a streaming service rather than into the theaters.
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