Tejas Nair | September 29, 2018
Rating – 8/10
When a pessimist like me watches a film about an eternally optimistic lead character, the consequent review is bound to be one that asks you to stop what you’re doing and run for the nearest theater. Sui Dhaaga takes you back to those fine old days when the word “Usha” was used interchangeably with sewing machines in India and when the world was a lot less hostile. It then paralyses you with its dramatic setting and a semi-realistic motivational story that might invite a tear or two. You can read the rest of the review on your way.
Varun Dhawan, in a character that reminds me of his on-screen alter ego – previously seen in Shoojit Sircar’s October earlier this year and Sriram Raghavan’s 2015 crime drama Badlapur, sheds his horseplaying games and puts up a mature air here as Mauji, a servile worker at a sewing machine selling shop where he also doubles up as a source of entertainment for the owner and his bratty son. He is also a family guy currently living with his parents and his wife (Anushka Sharma). His marriage is as uneventful as his terrible job but at least his boss garners pleasure from his work, an idea that his family members have not heard of. It is when Sharma’s wifey character – made to look like a cardboard in a shooting range – drills wisdom into Mauji’s head that he decides to put his own shop, a dream that he shares with his easy-come-easy-go father. Director Sharat Katariya is a master of rural household storytelling, which is as conspicuous as Sharma’s discomfiture throughout the film. The bulbs of comic drama that unfolds between conversations and actions in Mauji’s family is when the first time you will feel that all the running to the theater was worth it.
Dhawan’s Mauji is content with his life as he does not seem to disrupt or even question the status quo because at least the food is on the table. But when Sharma’s character’s sudden smartness and sarcastic vein erupts on that same table, Mauji shifts gears, which ultimately flips the controlled domesticity of his family. But writer Katariya wants that to happen, as his fast-paced yet repetitive storytelling keeps on honking the pros and cons of starting a small business. Mauji’s characterization, in a way, is translative to the class system of India, which is highly prevalent even as we are about two decades into the century. Sui Dhaaga starts by highlighting the division between classes by showing the financial and political limitations in Mauji, and just when you think it’s done, you stand for a surprise. Notice the tagline “Made in India” and you can sew together the happenings on-screen with those happening around in the neighboring Asian country.
There’s a nice, lighthearted feel to Sui Dhaaga, which constantly rewards me as I consume Katariya’s smooth writing and edible direction. The production value is top-notch and made me forget to look at any anachronisms considering that it never mentions what period it is set in. The Usha and Raymond brands check out but that does not give me much to process either. What does, instead, is the nod to the growing startup culture in the country. Mauji starts his business without any funds or tools, similar to how a majority of the real startups are today, not only in India but elsewhere around the world. I’m sure this would also make the Indian government’s “Make in India” campaigners very happy but I’m not going to talk about propaganda more than mentioning it once in this review.
And the audience a bit less happy because exactly at the 40th minute, Sui Dhaaga says goodbye to realism and starts treading to a path of convenience previously seen in R Balki’s Padman where Akshay Kumar’s character goes on and on with his idea of providing low-cost sanitary napkins to the needy.
The difference between these films is tiny, and that has to do with how far they are from realism. Katariya’s cinematic liberty is ultimately forgivable because he then starts talking about perseverance and self-sustenance, two topics that seem to have taken Bollywood by storm. Take a good look at the top-performing films in the past 18 months, and you will see why there is a need for comparison, an action that is hardly justifiable in a case other than this.
Yet, director Katariya succeeds in concocting a social story that also has a strong chemistry between his lead character. Dhawan, as I have noted earlier, is at the top of his game. Anything above this would immediately put his name among the young greats of modern Bollywood. Sharma is only let down by her character, which is mostly a supporting one. There’s something uncomfortable that you sense in her actions which makes you focus solely on Mauji and his relatable parents. Raghuvir Yadav and Yamini Das play his parents with so much energy and truth that it acts as an icing on Katariya’s immensely powerful storytelling. You almost put Sharma on the side skirts and focus on them, who are again supported by talented players like Namit Das, Bhupesh Singh, and Siddharth Bhardwaj. The oldie setting matches its characters and even the clothes that they wear, elevating Sui Dhaaga’s appeal as a drama above anything else.
Anu Malik’s music is calm and melodious at the same time and ties with Andre Guerra’s incredibly catchy and forward-driving background score. Papon’s “Chaav Laaga” and Divya Kumar’s titular track are both great to sing along as you watch and dig the happenings on-screen. Although I had issues with the repetitiveness in the plot in the second half, Katariya stumps again by reminding us that he’s not done. The final moments highlight another social issue related to the class division. The line between the tasteful glam world and the brutal, non-fashionable real world is hauntingly large yet bridge-able as Sui Dhaaga eventually comes around to making its most important point. It’s not what you wear or how you present yourself. It’s about perseverance, the support of family and friends, and a sheer will to live beyond the mediocrity.
Sui Dhaaga transforms into a motivational tale that warms your heart with its pleasantness and a lovely play of characters. It is a film that will make you smile all the way – either through the natural humor or the comic drama that it cultivates with brilliance. It might even make you chase that business idea that you dusted off during college days because hope is audacious as ever, much like Mauji and his optimism. Sui Dhaaga is also the first film in a long time where I didn’t mind the ad placements by Usha and Raymond because it felt real, much like most of the film.
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