Synopsis – A heart-warming story of pride and self-reliance, rooted in the heart of India.
My Take – Joining in Bollywood’s current trend of small town stories, here, Yash Raj Films for their latest have let go of their usual flashy and grandeur sets, in favor of simplicity. The film also a suffix in its title i.e. Made in India, as a part of promoting the Make in India campaign of BJP’s central government. While it has a plot line and a couple of moments that reinforce the same, however, director Sharat Katariya’s film is far subtle and less bothered with its push for the campaign. The ‘Made in India’ phrase is also used as a pun, replaced by Mad in India, to reflect the entrepreneurial ambitions of the lead couple and is instead more concerned about giving ownership and credit to local artisans, weavers and craftsmen.
Just like his earlier film, the wonderful Dum Laga Ke Haisha, this time too director Sharat Katariya‘s tale is centered on a lower-middle class family who struggles to keep their heads above the water. The treatment remains the same; truthful, tasteful and enjoyable. Although the film falls well short of its expectations and has no great surprises in store as the narrative progresses, the stellar performances, the simple and honest storytelling will surely win you over.
The story follows Mauji (Varun Dhawan), a low income earning descended of a family of failed hand loom weavers, who is forced into employment to make ends meet. Working for a shop selling sewing machines, unknown to his family, Mauji is humiliated every day and made to do weird things like putting up a weird comic act of a hungry dog, all for the entertainment of the owners. At home, his wife, Mamta (Anushka Sharma) is ever-busy-to-romance as her daily schedule revolves completely around serving her in laws (Raghuvir Yadav and Yamini Das).
But when Mamta witnesses how Mauji humiliates himself to stay employed, for the sake of his self-respect, she requests him to quit and put his gifted tailoring skills to test on his own. While Mauji immediately rejects the idea, stating that his father has sworn off his grandfather’s profession after seeing what happened, but soon decides to heed her pleas. This brings in fresh challenges and troubles, because his long-suffering father, who always misunderstands him and has just retired, taunts him, and more trouble is in store when his mother falls ill, and hospital bills add up, all hindering Mamta and Mauji’s mission to establish an embroidery business.
The script is simple, and therefore scores. A heartwarming story of perseverance, self-reliance, pride and the talent of artisans, here director Sharat Katariya has successfully depicted the daily problems of an average man who is fine with everything in his life. He takes right cues of exploitation, harassment and torments that a not-so-privileged, lower-middle-class layman has to go through, every day, and also gifts you heart-melting ten minutes where a group of tanned, imperfect, plain-looking people take to the fashion ramp, breaking all fitting definitions of what beauty truly means. Director Katariya, who has also written the 122-minute film, spares no effort in his attempt to create a complex tapestry of struggle and success. The film creates a very real sense of its small-town location and nails the lack of dignity of labor accorded to people like Mauji and the manner in which this class of Indian society is taken for granted.
In the winning first half, he successfully establishes his main characters and their problems. The film works best when it moves into unexpected directions and subverts its own insistent optimism. Absurdist humor and caustic observations on human foibles lighten the domestic scenes, and like in Dum Laga Ke Haisha, director Katariya creates a beautiful portrait of a typical Indian family with all its flaws and limitations. The initial reel will definitely bring down the house especially the hospital scene where Mauji and his father argues and all of sudden, nurse shouts at them to get out and fight somewhere else. Even the scene where Mauji’s mother ask Mamta to make sure to fill up the bucket full of water, even she is recovering from a heart attack is funny. Hats off to the director and script writer for making the best out of it. A huge pat to director Katariya for also adding the nuances so casually depicted of everyday small-town life, like sharing newspapers, the unending cups of tea, the saving of electricity by small actions like switching off a light in daytime, or Mamta advising her husband to keep his tiffin-box straight to avoid spilling a wet (curry) dish.
Here, director Katariya also brings in the most important factor of his earlier film – the couple dynamics. There are no elaborate song sequences, there is no elaborate love. Their conversations, like any household, revolve around the chores and people of the house as we sink into this adorable family with a powerhouse of talent at its helm. Their love story is the soul of the film as they communicate initially through other family members or through windows. We are repeatedly shown the distant nature of the husband-wife relationship between Mauji and Mamta, and it improves, not in overwhelming turn of events but in fits and starts, where the whole is more progressive than sum of its parts. Like in life.
Director Katariya saves the contrivances to get to a point where he can develop this dynamic. Like how he shows Mauji’s subservient nature to his boss and his son, a bunch of characters that have no dimension and are as generic as they come. But once he gets Mamta communicating with Mauji, Katariya’s script soars. Here, he takes his time with them – there is advice, exchange of ideas, physical and emotional labor shared between the two and this time investment goes a long way in making the moment when they finally hold each other’s hand a rewarding pivotal moment. Mamta keeps informing Mauji of their ascent – this is their first meal together, this is the first time he has given her a compliment. If Mauji is the dreamer, she with her silent strength is the doer. Their romance will perhaps remind us of the love and support our parents shared which might not have the throbbing passion but it is strong enough to tide over whatever challenge live throws at you, together. It’s the small moments and minor motifs that ultimately win the day here. For those who are watching closely, it is irrelevant whether Mauji impresses the fashion pundits. What matters is Mauji’s resistance to the pessimism of the previous generation, his egalitarian approach to marriage and labor, and his rediscovery of a spine that has been bent out of shape.
While the first half is filled with feel-good moments, the second half gets slightly indulgent as the plot veers towards suspension of disbelief, especially considering the grim economic climate. It’s not preachy, just simply convenient. The film falters especially when it moves away from being an intimate portrait and takes to grandstanding to find a solution to Mamta and Mauji’s problems, by treating it more like a tutorial on how to become an entrepreneur. The film has a clear mandate to deliver a rousing climax that makes it seem that anything is possible. The fashion world, which often relies on the creativity and sweat of anonymous artisans to sell high-priced goods, becomes a reliable villain. Yet, it is the haute couture industry that puts the final stamp of approval on Mauji, suggesting that for the handloom tradition to survive, it cannot but embrace the same marketplace that sucks it dry. Also the film has problem of reducing the characters outside of the family into caricatures. Like Guddu (Namit Das), such a believer in hack that one of his car doors is fully removable and instantly fixable by hand.
But it is not the story of the film that makes it special, it is the performances that makes it a pleasant watch. Varun Dhawan matches Mauji’s journey, leaping over obstacles with confidence and a can-do spirit that is hard to resist. Right from his costume, to his language, to his body language, everything was on point. Anushka Sharma’s expressions and the smallest movements of her eyes and lips and her body language and the inflections in her voice, all add up to prove that the lady is easily one of India’s best performers. The supporting roles are also sketched out perfectly, with Raghuvir Yadav taking the cake here. The Peepli Live actor did his part so well that it was a treat to watch the funny banter between him and his onscreen wife in the film. Yamini Das, who played Mauji’s mother in the film also managed to get some laughs through her gullible yet cute character. The other actors in smaller supporting roles are equally good. On the whole, ‘Sui Dhaaga’ is a typical feel-good YRF film which despite its short comings, earns a watch for its warm moments and good performances.
Directed – Sharat Katariya
Rated – PG
Run Time – 122 minutes