Sui Dhaaga Review: Championing the underdog
A true underdog story that relies more on its poignant moments than its predictably hopeful ones
Sui Dhaaga is a feature that embodies an Indian dream of sorts. This dream is the triumph of skilled artisans/weavers who have lost their regular livelihood due to the economics of capitalism: namely, the demand for cheaper, machine-made textiles and fabrics. Though the principal plot follows the trials and tribulations of tailor/dreamer, Mauji (Varun Dhawan) and his ever-supportive wife, Mamta (Anushka Sharma), it is at once a tale of family, grave exploitation, and hard-won dignity.
Director – Sharat Katariya
Cast – Anushka Sharma, Varun Dhawan, Raghubir Yadav
All things considered, Sui Dhaaga is an endearing film that backs and champions the underdog despite the laundry list of obstacles and indignities. The script does have some minor flaws, but the exceedingly good moments tend to overshadow the more ordinary parts. These include Mamta looking distraught as her husband deliberately makes a fool of himself at the boss’ son’s wedding; Mauji being moved by his doting wife’s demands of self-respect, followed by the sudden urge to quit his demeaning job at the store; husband and wife at a camp, waiting their turn to take a test; the look on their faces as they realise that the clothing brand they work for has stolen their original design; and the elitist reaction of the competition judges.
Mauji lives with his wife and parents in an impoverished neighbourhood that has borne the brunt of development. Once a community of thriving artisans/weavers, the mohalla is now full of people without a regular source of work. They subsist on mostly menial, unskilled jobs to make ends meet. Mauji’s father (Raghubir Yadav) has recently retired, and draws a pension. Though a tailor of considerable skill, Mauji works in a shop that sells sewing machines, and is treated by the owners of the establishment in a feudal and classist manner. He is often slapped around and insulted by the boss’ son and is made to behave like a circus creature for their benefit. Though he seems not to mind at first, the public humiliation witnessed by his wife at the boss’ son’s wedding, forces him to reassess his priorities. Egged on by a supportive Mamta, Mauji decides to borrow a sewing machine from a neighbour and start his own tailoring business. But his mother’s sudden ill health and the resultant hospital bills threaten to destroy the dream even before it takes shape.
Sui Dhaaga makes a strong case when it tackles the subject of exploitation; when those with power and access tend to be unjust towards skilled labourers who are at their mercy. The film tells you that it is not okay to put your dignity and self-respect up for sale. But if you’re struggling economically, what choice are you left with? Do individual dreams need to be relinquished because you do not have the means to pursue them? The story stops and asks these pertinent questions as well. The message of hope (the sentiment on which the whole narrative revolves) being peddled leaves some room for improvement, though. In my opinion, it ought to have been presented in a more nuanced and believable manner. One such instance comes to mind: Mauji is at the hospital donating blood for his mother’s surgery when he gets a frantic call from his wife. He rushes upstairs to see a dozen women interested in getting a maxi (the same kind his mother has on) stitched for themselves. That unrealistic music-filled scene sets the stage for his tailoring career to take off. Sui Dhaaga is all about the reality checks encountered by Mauji, Mamta, and their family. Those are the examples that are seriously true to life. Even the simple bond shared by husband and wife, as well as the strained relationship between father and son, are handled sensitively. Early montages of the two lazy men of the household being looked after by Mamta and her mother-in-law, have an earthy feel to them that hits home. As for the heroism depicted, it is Mamta's name that comes up first. Mauji is a man with no real purpose or self-belief before his wife (in a quiet and unassuming way) inspires him to strive for bigger things. In spite of mediocre humour and the predictable conclusion, Sui Dhaaga is a story worth investing in for all the fine instances of pathos.