Maska (2020) Review!!

Synopsis – Determined to make it in showbiz, an aspiring young actor considers turning his back on the beloved Irani café run by his family for generations.

My Take – It is unfortunate but true that we are living in a time where the whole subject of conversion especially on social media is mainly focused on how many people are effected by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown it has induced across the globe, with no end in sight as of now.

While bored people, stuck in their homes, are keeping themselves busy by consuming the numerous list of pandemic films or other heavy-duty content on OTT platforms, Netflix India has taken a quite noble approach by not getting clamped up in the demand, and surprised by instead releasing a light coming of age drama, that too headlined by the ever likable Manisha Koirala, as their latest original film. Making it just the kind of chirpy, bright, sunshiny mood-elevator some of us really required.

While the film follows the same age-old story of a guy stuck between his and family’s dreams, and falls for those typical Bollywood tropes, it is still good enough to help you sail through, making it feel like a breath of fresh viewing experience among such turbulent times.

The story follows Rumi Irani (Prit Kamani), a young Parsi lad, who has spent his whole life under the shadow of his dead father, Rustom (Jaaved Jaaferi), and his heirloom, which has enforced upon him by his mother, Diana Irani (Manisha Koirala). Despite suffering from severe arthritis and extreme competition from urban hot spots, Diana remains headstrong about running their family’s 100-year-old Parsi café, which continues to have its dedicated clientele, but hopes that Rumi will take over as soon as he graduates.

However, Rumi isn’t interested in the life of a baker like his father, as he dreams of becoming a Bollywood superstar. While Diana often tries to talk him out of it, he remains adamant about his decision. He even joins an acting school and starts dating a fellow ambitious yet struggling actress, Mallika Chopra (Nikita Dutta), and moves in with her, hence further souring his relationship with mother.

But after constant rejections, Rumi begins looking for alternate ways to fulfill his dream, and the easiest one seems to be selling his café and financing a film. Yet a dilemma begins to arise in his mind when Persis Mistry (Shirley Setia), a sweet-natured Parsi blogger, begins to walking him through the importance of a family’s legacy.

After this, the film strolls on an obvious path and concludes on a very predictable note. The film isn’t too ambitious, it knows its limitations and it remains confined to them throughout. Like those Disney films where the viewers mostly care about the cuteness quotient. This is also not the first film to take us into the world of quaint and cute Parsi eccentricities, and I hope it’s not the last. Given its reliance on stereotypical community quirks the film does well for itself.

Armed with a gallery of quirky Parsi characters, debutante director Neeraj Udhwani, whose writing credits include films like Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji and excellent series like Inside Edge and Home, does well for himself. The film is suffused with the scent of sunshine. The positivity of mood makes us overlook many of the film’s glaring transgressions, like the melodrama of a dying man getting fed bread butter by his beloved wife, and the manufactured climax. However, there is an inherent honesty and humanism in this film that shines through.

Even though the story is ordinary, the screenplay keeps you with it thanks to some light and charming moments. The whole track of Rumi with his dad, who is now a ghost, is entertaining. If it makes you laugh at several junctures, it gives you a heartwarming sensation as well.

But the problem here is that the film remains an easy and convenient watch for far too long. It unfairly ignores its own subplots and exaggerates the drama unnecessarily. For instance, the whole idea of Rumi cheating his mom was not needed, when he could have just asked monetary help from her.

Also, I didn’t relate to Rumi’s attitude towards casual sex, a track which comes out of nowhere and instead ends up demeaning the whole character of Persis. Making matters worse, like umpteen Bollywood films, the film also shows that strong, independent women aren’t marriage material and you need an innocent family based girl to take care of the home.

However, the performances keep you hooked, with Manisha Koirala, undoubtedly the star of the film. I don’t know if the makers have got her stereotype the Parsi accent or not but she looks cute as the Parsi mother. Newcomer Prit Kamani is also quite good and has his moments, like the scene when he lashes out at the casting director. Javed Jaaferi gives another excellent performance. Though he has a limited role, he does it very well and gets to mouth some hilarious one-liners.

Shirley Setia has a sweet, gentle presence and acts naturally. Nikita Dutta, on the other hand, owns the screen every time she’s on it. Here she is as impressive as she was in Kabir Singh. On the whole ‘Maska’ is a colorful age-old-story which despite its predictability manages to be a joy to watch.

Directed – Neeraj Udhwani

Starring – Nikita Dutta, Javed Jaffrey, Prit Kamani

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 111 minutes

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