Little Baby Movie Review: Priyanshu Chatterjee redeems a generic father-daughter story
Shekhar S Jha's filmmaking is too literal, but despite being messy and messily-made, this Priyanshu Chatterjee-starrer leaves a taste
First off, it’s nice to see Priyanshu Chatterjee more often. The actor who once played dreamboats — often in discomfitingly high white turtlenecks — is visibly grizzled now, living out his Jeff Goldblum comparisons. In Little Baby, he plays Dushyant, a police officer who’s grown apart from his daughter. The set-up is generic and the film overloud, but Priyanshu blesses his role with a seasoned stillness. Even when he’s thrashing a suspect, he appears more saddened than angry, quietly sitting down by his victim to dab his wounds. Like cops tend to do.
Dushyant is less fatherly at home. His daughter, Shasha, has a danger sign hung up on her door, and appears to hold her father accountable for a past tragedy. Shasha is played by Gulnaz Siganporia, a newcomer whose Instagram handle describes her as ‘a dancer trapped in an actor’s body’. We agree.
Director: Shekhar S Jha
Cast: Priyanshu Chatterjee, Gulnaz Siganporia
After a peppy club number, Shasha and her friends are rounded up from a hotel. A law student, she gives it back to the police for moralising on their freedoms, but ends up breaking her father’s heart, who heads the same station she’s brought in to.
Eventually, Dushyant relents. He admits to his drinking problem and takes great pains to reconcile with Shasha. Exhausted with her aloofness, he sits her down and confesses his fraught mental state. “I think I need a psychiatrist,” he says, to which the impulsive refusenik has the perfect response: “Are you out of your mind?” Nevertheless, father and daughter head out for some well-advised counselling, and the film totters back and forth between a jaded generational-gap story and a weirdly unsettling psychodrama, where characters lose themselves in their own house and lime-green flashbacks spill old secrets.
Oh yes, there’s a mother in the story as well (played by Shivani Mahajan), a character so tangentially positioned it borders on satire. But then again, this might be the only point director Shekhar S Jha wants to make: the corrupting selfishness that blinds us to our loved ones. His filmmaking is too literal — “My daughter can jump off a roof for me,” Dushyant says, then mandates a demonstration — but I wonder if any of this is stemming from some actual emotional crease.
Little Baby is messy and messily made, but it leaves a taste. In one scene, the family drives out to a restaurant. The waiter condescendingly suggests a mocktail for Shasha, making Dushyant cut in. “She’s an adult,” he chides. “Fix her a proper drink.” In that moment, he’s an adult too.