The courts in our country have reiterated ad nauseam that child welfare is the decisive factor in a custody dispute. One hundred and forty minutes with Nandita Roy-Shiboprosad Mukherjee takes us on that route.(Image: IMDb)
Starring: Paresh Rawal, Shiv Panditt, Manoj Joshi, Tiku Talsania, Amruta Subhash, Neena Kulkarni, Kabir Pahwa, Amrutha Subash
Mimi Chakraborty, K.K. Raina
Direction: Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee
The courts in our country have reiterated ad nauseam that child welfare is the decisive factor in a custody dispute. One hundred and forty minutes with Nandita Roy-Shiboprosad Mukherjee takes us on that route. The script moves in a near-straight line where there is black — albeit with a sense of sympathy — and white, with a lot of gross. It is a stance, maybe even pitchforked from experience or observation.
In the early minutes of the hearing, judge K.K. Raina observes that the issue viewed in the contemporary context is important and requires to be discussed with responsibility. Obviously, this responsibility is extended to the stance and manner of treating the challenge within the celluloid framework.
Credit must be given to Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee for keeping a close watch on the path to take. The style is simple. Interestingly, it betrays little bias. The result is a tad too cinematic but such compromise at the box-office is understandable and, to be fair, even judicial minds find it difficult to find a clear-cut solution. In fact, hidden between the dilemma parents-grandparents; quality time-quantity; hands-on vs. liberal; ambitious-drive less; brilliant-mediocre and other stated conundrums is the theory that finally life is personal and so are choices effectively what is sauce for the goose need not be sauce for the gender.
Cut to Panchgani. Manohar Shastry (Paresh Rawal) and his wife Urmila (Neena Kulkarni) are with their truly loveable grandson Yaman-Momji (Kabir Pahwa). Their son MalharShastry (Shiv Panditt) and his successful wife Malika (Mimi Chakraborty) live in the city, earning their livelihood. Characteristically Manohar is a perfectionist and has high expectations from all and is also an old-fashioned disciplinarian. He has problems with his son and his multiple failures. While Malhar has a career that does not take off, Malika is climbing the career chart with rapidity. Malhar kicks up a row at the office, quits his job and, on one of those weekend holidays at his parental home, finds life suffocating. Malika finds herself deprived of the normal nitty-gritty and the chemistry with little Yaman. A little accident at a party draws sharper lines in the father-son relationship between Manohar and Malhar. We are heading to an upper-middle class Shastry vs Shastry scenario.
With Malhar getting an opportunity to improve his career, he takes a legitimate call that his son must leave his grandparents, stop being pampered and face the world — effectively move out from the care of the grandparents. A chanced heated discussion leads to a challenge and a judicial battle for child custody.
It is a full-blown battle where the principal players are hesitant but have non-negotiable interests and the belief that the system can offer a solution. Law courts are ever so often called upon to adjudicate child custody. The delicate task of having to choose between maternal claims and paternal rights is as old as the hills.
This time round, and assuredly not for the first time the battle lines are between the "WhatsApp parents" and the disguised caretaker grandparents. Also, the challenge has a contemporaneous halo to the issue. Larger joint families evaporated leading to socio, emotional, financial challenges for the upbringing of children. Women making career choices either by reason of their ambition, capacity or need brought with it logistic challenges. "Old Age Tax" as one person puts it has been a growing Indian route for NRIs and obviously an inspiration for the domestic counterparts.
The debate is prefaced by the judge who identifies the challenge and sets the tone. The two lawyers, Jeetender Mehta (Manoj Joshi) for Shastry Sr. and Shalini Patwardhan (Amrutha Subash) are dramatic but studied and steady. The script plays well in the courtroom.
The team has done its homework. both socially and legally. The mix is well-balanced and equally presented. It ensures for the major point of time to remain balanced and ensures it is not lopsided. Even more important, the issues raised don’t come with any directorial bias. The intellectual honesty leads to a paradox, but saying anything more would be playing spoilsport.
The script, while it works enthusiastically on the basics and ensures against needless embellishments, takes its own time in coming to the brewing conflict. Again, once it does, the conflict is evenly poised and presented. The cast adds huge value. Mimi Chakraborty may not have a meaty role. However, she has her moments and a very clearly sculpted character. Her scene moment is in the later part of the film when she throws up a question to her parents-in-law. In comparison Shiv Panditt is a tad too bland — specially the confrontation with Paresh at the seashore. As the lawyer, Manoj Joshi, once again, is the ever-dependable actor. This time he locks horns interestingly with Amrutha Subash — who is equally good. Maybe the script plays favourites with her, and she is equal to the task. Neena Kulkarni for a change has a role worth the while and she delivers.
Two outstanding performances make the film special. Child star Kabir Pahwa is so, so endearing and good that he reminds you of Raju Shreshta or Jugal Hansraj. He plays the role with such honesty that for sheer quality he is worth fighting for!! Paresh ‘Perfect’ Rawal is at it again. He carries so much sincerity that the mood is visibly infectious. A very remarkable performance — even by his standards.
The emotive strings are well-balanced and the battle is near symmetrical. Dealt with responsibility, presented with passion.