Cast: Sarah Jane Dias, Sandhya Mridul, Amrit Maghera, Tannistha Chatterjee, Pavleen Gujral, Rajshri Deshpande, Anushka Manchanda, Adil Hussain, Arjun Mathur,
Director: Pan Nalin
A kind of a first for Indian mainstream, Bollywood to be precise, this female buddy movie directed by the Internationally acclaimed (Samsara) filmmaker Pan Nalin has a clique of 6 friends and a maid bonding together through thick and thin in the warm climes of Goa, India.
The film starts out as a subversive comedy about the ridiculous nature of Bollywood dreams and the pitfalls that go with it. Joanna (Amrit Maghera) of British-Indian origins has starry aspirations of living the Bollywood dream. The two bit-role she has landed doesn’t have anything worthwhile for her to do other than those all-too-familiar bust heaves and hip-swings.
Frustrated with her lot she breaks away into an action sequence solely meant for the hero and as a result loses the only part she has. The rest of the lady friends have their own breakaway stories that land them in Goa for a surprise celebration at their Photographer friend Frieda (Sarah Jane Dias)’s home. Each of them have a story to tell and tears to shed and they all get underway before Frieda can reveal the true nature of her surprise and once that’s done tragedy strikes.
Probably that’s too simplistic an explanation for this heavily loaded, chick-flick that puts the ladies through their own personal and individual self-awareness exercise, while allowing free rein for their thoughts and emotions. Suranjana (Sandhya Mridul), a single parent, is the hot-shot businesswoman grappling with land acquisition issues, Nasreen (Tannishta Chatterjee) is the activist/ champion of causes who is a bee in Su’s bonnet, Pamela (Pavleen Gujral) is the bored dissatisfied young housewife, Madhureeta (Anushka Manchanda) is a singer who is seeing lean days while Laxmi (Rajshri Deshpande) is the maid servant harbouring a tortured past. As they get to know and understand each other, revelations spill out and while the woman come-to-terms with their respective situations a tragedy strikes.
As the film plays along the lightness of the opening section subverts into heavy laden issue based mini dramas that ultimately culminate in a defining moment of reckoning that is typically and culturally Goan in nature. While the script does try to cram in far too many issues including filmy objectification of woman as sex objects, gay relationships, gay-straight friendships, tribal rights, the rape problem, caste differences, fair-dark skin colour prejudice, skewered justice system and many more, there is a strong undercurrent of native Goan culture and relatability that holds it all together.
And it’s that integration with the story that gives this filmed experience more meaning. Pan Nalin’s interesting interweaving of mini-dramas into what initially seemed like a purely fun outing, has its own set of engaging moments. A lot of it has to do with the in-your-face intimacy of the hand-held camerawork, the atmospheric lighting and the thrifty editing. The performances are also very well defined and keyed-up to a nicety.
The actors appear to be having a lot of fun and no doubt, as will the audience. The background score and the songs are poignant and uplifting. Pan Nalin’s Goa-centred quickie might not have the deeply gravitating, quiet handsomeness of his ‘Samsara’ but it does have enough heft to keep you engaged and involved.