Doordarshan movie review: Mahie Gill and Dolly Ahluwalia shine in this humorous and candid drama
A hilarious and heartfelt film about middle-class family life set in the bylanes of Old Delhi
A comatose grandmother who has been unconsciousness for thirty years, an estranged couple at loggerheads over their imminent divorce, an older brother obsessed with softcore magazines and the next-door-neighbor, a teenage sister with a penchant for slacking off, and a childhood friend wanting his house back from the family for the last three decades. When all these elements of middle-class life in Old Delhi come together, it is hard not to relate to these people. Gagan Puri’s film makes an impression and elicits quite a few laughs as it delves into North Indian family hilarity. It is so simple and natural that no one quite seems out of place in this well-made story.
The attempted recreation of the whole 80s vibe (transistor, black-and-white television, old school TV cable, Doordarshan, Ramayan posters on the wall) in order to ensure the grandmother’s stress-free transition is one of Doordarshan’s highpoints. The whole Bimla gag (especially with the old lady constantly referencing it through the narrative) is perfectly timed in the comedic sense. The song Rukawat Ke Liye Khed Hai makes an appearance in all the right moments of the narrative, capturing in the process the sheer humour that is family life.
Director: Gagan Puri
Cast: Mahie Gill, Manu Rishi Chaddha, Dolly Ahluwalia, Supriya Shukla
Mahie Gill and Dolly Ahluwalia are the acting standouts, making the audience laugh their lungs out through the film’s run. Mahie’s Priya is a feisty Punjabi Bullet-riding wife whose favourite pastime is to fire ultimatums about signing the divorce papers at her almost ex-husband. About ten minutes into the story, Priya storms into her husband’s office to ask why he hasn’t signed the said document yet. Her entrance is memorable and funny thanks to Mahie Gill.
The grandmother is another character, so to speak. When she regains consciousness to the sounds of her grandson engrossed in a softcore magazine story involving a person named Bimla, no one can believe their eyes. The doctor advises them to ease her into the transition of waking up after such a long duration. And this is where the film takes its humorous turn. Not wanting to upset her by the news of his impending divorce, the son wishes to recreate 1989 (just as she left it). Her bedroom is turned upside down, newer photos and paintings are replaced with authentic ones of the era, the latest gadgets are done away with and in their place appear all things old-school. Though middle-aged, he dresses up in a school uniform to comfort the old lady. He tells her she’s been in a coma for only six months. She makes reference to her wrinkled hands and his suddenly aged appearance, but he brushes off the latter hilariously by claiming to have thyroid issues. Much to their chagrin, he makes his children don the role of housekeepers.
Through all the candid humour, the film portrays a subtle bond between husband and wife. It is all chaotic, of course, but beneath the chaos is an understanding that is hard to miss. They are shown to be constantly bickering and arguing about the littlest things, and whilst that gives the audience ample reason to laugh, Puri’s writing/direction and the performances of both Mahie Gill and Manu Rishi Chaddha ensure that the message — about a family staying together — is delivered well.
The supporting characters (especially the sister and the brother’s zany best friend) are excellent in their roles. Dolly Ahluwalia is rarely not funny as the grandmother. The relentless belittling of her grandkids (whom she believes to be her attendants) is a sight if there ever was one – from “teri shakal dekhi hai” to “har din woh namak waali khichdi”, the barbs and the laughs are never-ending.
They could have perhaps done way with the overly emotional sequence when daadi finally realises it’s 2019. Lines like “log sirf yeh transistor (meaning smartphone) mein lage rehte hain” and “kisi ko doosre ki parvah nahi hai” are relevant when it comes to the state of the world, but they felt forced and overdone here.
What makes Doordarshan so watchable is its relatability and everyday humour. If you’ve ever lived in the middle-class neighbourhoods of Delhi, these are the people one would fraternise with on a regular basis. Their problems and triumphs, though small and apparently insignificant, are in the same vein as your own.