'Sir' Review: Tillotama Shome Is A Knockout In This Tender Romance

Tatsam Mukherjee
·2-min read
A still from Rohena Gera's 'Sir'.
A still from Rohena Gera's 'Sir'.

In Rohena Gera’s Sir, things come full circle for Tillotama Shome. Around the halfway mark, Ashwin (Vivek Gomber) returns to his Mumbai apartment at an unexpected time of the day. As he nudges his bedroom door, he sees his domestic help, Ratna (Shome), trying on a new dress she has stitched for her younger sister in front of the full-length mirror. An awkward silence ensues, as both of them are shell-shocked. As Mr Park (from Parasite) would say, Ratna realises that she has ‘crossed a line’ here. Meanwhile, Ashwin feels terrible about intruding into a private moment like that.

Shome’s reaction in this scene is reminiscent of her first role in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding from nearly 20 years ago. Playing a domestic help in that film too, Shome’s Alice gets carried away and tries the bride’s jewellery and attire, only to get ‘caught’. Even then, Shome had aced the expression that was equal parts shame, innocence and shock. Relegated to playing a meek character in the 2001 film, over here Shome’s character bravely goes up to her employer and confronts the situation. “Other servants switch on the AC and watch TV, but I never do that. The only reason I went to your room was because the mirror in my room is really small,” she tells Ashwin. Several years since I first watched Shome in a film, it’s always rewarding to see her under the spotlight, unfurling the nuances of a complicated role with confidence.

Gera’s directorial debut, which premiered in the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, is releasing after being on the festival circuit for over two years. Based on the dynamic between a city-bred man and his domestic worker, Sir treads the tricky terrain of telling a love story between a man and his help . Telling the comes with the responsibility of understanding the deeply unequal power dynamic at play where the man is in a position of extreme privilege. It also has the responsibility of avoiding falling into the sexist trap of portraying lives of...

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