Unlike a delicious hot steamy plate of rajma chawal, Leena Yadav’s film which is now streaming on Netflix isn’t entirely palatable. Rajma Chawal is a mixed bag with a contrived plot, assorted clichés and an unappealing lead pair held up by some winning performances thrown in by Rishi Kapoor, Aparshakti Khurana, Manurishi Chadha and Sheeba Chaddha.
The story of Rajma Chawal revolves around a 60+ widower Raj Mathur (Rishi Kapoor) who’s trying to mend his relationship with his son Kabir (Anirudh Tanwar). Having just lost his mother, Kabir is a brooding, moody youngster who prefers to wear headphones and scroll through his phone at the dinner table rather than strike a conversation with his dad, who he holds a grudge against. The first half of the film almost plays out like one of those sketches that autoplay on Facebook, which shows the older generation catching up or dealing with mobile technology and millennial lingo.
So, after his wife’s death, Raj Mathur moves bag and baggage from his home in New Delhi to his old quarters in Purani Dilli’s Chandni Chowk much to his son’s annoyance. Worried by the growing emotional distance between him and his son, Raj’s coterie of friends register him on Facebook with a fake account (of a pretty girl named Tara) so that the son at least starts to “chat” if not “talk” to his father. Yup, so basically we have a dad who’s catfishing by posing as a PYT to chat with his son. A little creepy but let’s play along.
So Kabir falls for his dad’s trick and begins getting more than just friendly with the new girl who pops up on his chat. But, Kabir is so sanskaari that he goes through a few days of chatting without ever typing the two magical words - “Send Nudes”. Now, that would’ve been really awkward.
Things go awry when the “fake” girl from FB (Amyra Dastur) actually stumbles into the father and son’s life. While papaji resorts to paying the girl to keep up the online chat and IRL relationship with his son going, betaji is dealing with his daddy issues by channeling his angst into mediocre indipop numbers that surprisingly go viral.
Several misunderstandings and plot twists later, papaji makes up with his betaji and asks for his forgiveness, “Iss sab ke peeche mera pyaar hai yaar. Bas bol ke bata nahi paaya tujhe, kyonki bol ke pyaar dikhana maine toh kabhi seekha hi nahi yaar,” is how a teary eyed Raj closes the matter with his son.
Now, Rajma Chawal has a predictable but promising premise but the film’s biggest weakness lies in the parts where it tries hard to be “young” and “hip” without really getting under the skin of the milieu. The “older generation” bits are expertly handled both by the director and the brilliant actors at hand. Rishi Kapoor brings his usual effortless charm to the role while Manurishi Chadha, Brijendra Kala and Sheeba Chadha are brilliant as Mathur’s Purani Dilli ke yaar. Also, a special mention for Aparshakti Khurana whose mere presence in every scene lifts the film.
Newcomer Anirudh Tanwar, on whom most of the film hinges, delivers a middling performance. As a coming of age youngster, Anirudh doesn’t have the vulnerability that a Rajat Barmecha brought to his role in Udaan or the intensity that Shashank Arora had in Titli.
Amyra Dastur has a discernible screen presence but is unable to make her character Seher a memorable one.
With the camera being helmed by Donald McAlpine, whose filmography includes (believe it or not) Hollywood hits such as Patriot Games, Mrs Doubtfire, Nine Months, Romeo + Juliet, Stepmom, Moulin Rouge, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (phew!), Rajma Chawal is really easy on the eye, with parts of Chandni Chowk refreshingly shot. Yadav has also roped in another Hollywood biggie Thom Noble (Themla & Louise, Witness, Flightplan) to edit the film. With such an impeccable technical team, Rajma Chawal could have been an easy heart-warmer with a few lump-in-your-throat-moments kind of film that makes for repeat viewing, but it unfortunately falls short.
Rating: 2 Quints out of 5
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