Friday, April 15, 2016

Review of Waiting

Image Courtesy: Facebook Page of 'Waiting'

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah (Shiv Natraj), Kalki Koechlin (Tara Deshpande), Rajat Kapoor (Doctor Nirupam), Suhasini Maniratnam (Pankaja - Shiv’s wife), Arjun Mathur (Tara’s husband - Rajat Deshpande), Rajeev Ravindranathan (Girish), Ratnabali Bhattacharjee (Ishita)
Direction: Anu Menon
Produced by: Priti Gupta and Manish Mundra
Story and Screenplay: Anu Menon, James Ruzicka
Dialogues: Atika Chohan
Music: Mikey McCleary
Cinematography: Neha Parti Matiyani
Edited by: Nitin Baid, Apurva Asrani
Production Company: Ishka Films, Drishyam Films
Release Date: 11th December, 2015 (United Arab Emirates), 27th May, 2016 (India)
Duration: 1 hour 32 minutes
Language: Hindi

Waiting, a film by Anu Menon, showcases the journey of two individuals who are in midst of turbulence and going through most difficult phases of their lives. Anu’s previous feature film was London, Paris, New York. Anu has successfully dealt with the human emotions in this film. The griefs, uncertainties, turbulence, and frustrations of the protagonists are handled so sensibly that in spite of the negative situations in the film, the flavour is very much positive. The film had its world premiere in Dubai International Film Festival, and also at Indian Film Festival at Los Angeles (IFFLA 2016). I had the privilege to watch the film at IFFLA 2016 on 10th April, 2016. One can very well relate to the situations in which protagonists are in the film. Most of us face such situations in our lives, where our dear ones suffer and are in hospital due to old age, or some accidents or some critical illness. When we are sure that our dear ones would be fine with the treatment, we are certainly able to gather the courage to deal with the situations. But what if, there are just uncertainties, one is not sure, whether the medical treatment is going to work or not in their favour, how does one handle self? What if, one has to just ‘Wait’, how does one respond towards that ‘Waiting’. Here is the film of Anu menon, which connects two individuals during their crisis and ‘Waiting’ period in the hospital. A beautiful relationship develops between them, who are from two different backgrounds, two different schools of thoughts, two different age groups, one social-media-savvy and the other doesn’t even know what twitter is, one easily using ‘F***’ and ‘S***’ words, whereas the other is uncomfortable even listening to it. The film does deal with negative situations but it talks about our copability as human beings to cope with the adversities. I think, the plot of the film can be simply conveyed in one sentence, but the beauty of the film is that how the screenplay is developed for this film by Anu Menon and James Ruzicka, which in spite of handling tragedies, is so much positive, full of hope, with so many scenes bringing smile to one’s face and above all with a realistic tone.  A beautiful film indeed about a special relationship between two protagonists who meet in the hospital nursing their respective spouses in coma. The story is conveyed in a very light-hearted manner with lot of banter and insights, which instantly engages the audience.

The film begins with the lens focused on a table clock, where alarm is set for 6 AM and then the focus moves to Naseeruddin Shah, who is already awake on bed and in a thoughtful mode. He switches off the alarm in the usual mode, gets up to be ready. One is unable to anticipate where he is heading to, until the vehicle stops in front of a hospital Aster Medcity (Kochi, Kerala). On his way inside the hospital, he exchanges pleasantries with the doctor, the tea / coffee vending machine in-charge Panickar, asks in regard to the well-being of his daughter, picks up coffee and gives it to the receptionist saying that she is working very hard. Naseeruddin Shah reaches a ward and he appears to be well-versed with medical terminologies, asks the nurse in regard to the vitals of the patient. He instantly feels the need of blood test for the patient. These scenes create a notion that he is a doctor in that hospital. But, when the nurse leaves the ward, he sits beside the patient and addresses her as “So? How is my favourite wife?” That is when we realize that he is there to take care of his wife Pankaja (Suhasini Maniratnam), who is in coma since eight months after a brain stroke.

Entry of Kalki happens in a very interesting sequence (in Mumbai), where she is showing a feminist music video to her friends. The video has her promoting sanitary napkins with a song – ‘Be free’. Both the friends make fun of her. They do share light moments over here.

I felt that these two scenes through which lead protagonists are introduced, are very thoughtfully written and edited, since it gives the audience an insight into the personalities of the two main characters - Shiv Natraj played by Naseeruddin Shah and Tara Deshpande by Kalki.  Shiv’s maturity (a retired professor) and medical awareness and young Tara’s (in her twenties) free spirited nature is shown through these scenes. Tara is shown to be very happy in fast-paced life.

The happy-go-lucky Tara’s world gets upside down, when she gets a visitor Bharat from her husband Rajat Deshpande’s (Arjun Mathur) office, who informs her about Rajat’s accident and his being critical and admitted in Cochin hospital. Tara, absolutely in shock, flies from Mumbai to Cochin. She reaches Aster Medcity where she finds her husband in coma after brain injury.

Waiting in the hospital canteen, she meets Shiv, almost diametrically opposite in nature. Shiv appears balanced, whereas Tara a bit impulsive. Shiv’s composed nature with sense of humour manages to convince Tara to take care of herself atleast till Rajat is in ICU, since it is like taking care of Rajat and asks her not to stop three things - eating, sleeping and bathing. Tara, whose marriage to Rajat (hardly six weeks of marriage) was not supported by either parents, and in spite of having some odd 1400 friends on facebook, followers on twitter, finds herself literally alone while she awaits some positive developments in Rajat’s case. Shiv, who fondly talks about his wonderful 40 years of marriage to Padmaja, also does feel lonely at heart. Shiv feels that people of Tara’s generation are so impulsive, want quick fixes to solutions. In spite of being different, a beautiful relationship develops between Shiv and Tara.

Both Shiv and Tara reach a pivotal point where they have to take crucial decisions (although those decisions don’t guarantee 100% recovery of their spouses). Shiv doesn’t know, how to live without Pankaja and Tara does not know how Rajat would live his life if physically crippled.

Rest of the film is about how Shiv and Tara handle the most difficult phases of their lives. Are Shiv and Tara able to find answers to the human predicament bound to suffering and grief? Are they able to shift their own ideas of attachment and love for their beloved? Are they able to reexamine their own individual ideas of love and attachment? How two different individuals unknown to each other evolve to become kindred spirits and help each other out? How such a grim situation of hospital is handled in the film, what magic the sense of humour creates in such a crisis? The film highlights and makes us ponder over a very vital point: What does it really mean to love someone – is it to let go of your beloved in spite of your emotional need for them or is it to unconditionally accept them in whichever shape or form they are. Are they able to develop a mutual emotional support and be emotional anchor to each other? How do they move forward? How is their journey of inner transformation, when on one side, their world is falling apart externally?

Kalki has captured every emotion of Tara beautifully, be it initially free-spirited nature, or grief-stricken, frustrations dealing with uncertainties, emotional vulnerabilities and outbursts on feeling helpless, lonely, non-decisive. Kalki has done complete justice to Tara.

Naseeruddin Shah is a veteran, and this is another spontaneous and natural performance from him as Shiv.

Rajat Kapoor as Dr. Nirupam becomes a very important part of the story, where he plays a thorough professional and remains unfazed by expectations of Shiv or Tara. He keeps the power of discretion in regard to his patients to himself and is very assertive to decide to do the best for his patients. It is interesting to see him teaching junior doctors to convey bad news to the relatives of the patient. It is always a delight to watch him on screen.

Another treat in the film is the presence of Rajeev Ravindranathan as Girish, an employee of Rajat’s local office of Cochin. He is awesome with his South Indian accent. There are some very good moments of laughter with Tara and Girish on screen. His expressions would leave you in splits.

Ratnabali Bhattacharjee as Ishita, Tara’s close friend, is instrumental in the film to make Tara understand that everybody has their own priorities through her whirlwind visit in the hospital.

There are lots of scenes in the film, which need special mentions but a few of them (without revealing much of the story) are:
  • Tara crying soundlessly seeing her husband Rajat’s terrible condition in ICU
  • Tara asking Doctor Nirupam: Is Rajat going to die?
  • Tara calling up Rajat’s mobile just to hear his voice mail message
  • Tara wearing Rajat’s watch and t-shirt when she gets his bag from Girish
  • Shiv helping Tara to understand different stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining (Give and Take with God), Depression, and finally acceptance
  • Tara’s bursting out into laughter when Shiv spells out ‘S***’ word for the first time
  • Shiv, when being asked by the doctor to call family members, saying that Pankaja is his only family

There are many more moments in the film. Watch the film to explore them.

The song ‘He zara zara, ab asar hua zara zara…’ gave me goosebumps.

Dialogues by Atika Chohan makes the film interesting. One must appreciate cinematographer Neha Parti for capturing various scenes so beautifully. Editors Nitin Baid and Apurva Asrani have brilliantly edited the film. There is no single moment in the film, where you feel disengaged.

‘Waiting’, a film by Anu Menon, instantly engages the audience by conveying a grim story of tragedies in a very light-hearted manner with lot of banter and insights. The film highlights and makes us ponder over a very vital point: What does it really mean to love someone – is it to let go of your beloved in spite of your emotional need for them or is it to unconditionally accept them in whichever shape or form they are. Wonderfully captured on screen by cinematographer Neha Parti Martiyani and deftly edited by Nitin Baid & Apurva Asrani makes this story of tragedies a delightful watch. A must watch film.

Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

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