“Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi”… This dream cast deserved much better writing, a much better movie

Posted on March 16, 2020

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There are small, sharp moments of observation, but nothing special enough to warrant this cast, many of whom give off a “let’s chip in and do this for a friend who’s making her first film” vibe.

Spoilers ahead…

What a cast Seema Pahwa has queued up for her directorial debut, Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi. Naseeruddin Shah. Supriya Pathak. Vinay Pathak. Vikrant Massey. Konkona Sen Sharma. Vineet Kumar. Manoj Pahwa. Parambrata Chatterjee. It’s like a telephone directory of the actors you love to watch, the actors you can trust, blindly, to elevate any part, of any size. The film is a dramedy, a throwback to films about large families, like Bawarchi or Teen Bahuraniyan. (You might even think of Hum Log, the television series that first brought Seema Pahwa to our attention.) But there’s a prickly undercurrent of dysfunction you didn’t find so easily (or at least, dealt too seriously with) in films of those times.

Take the daughter-in-law played by (a brilliant) Konkona, who’s remained an outsider. In an earlier era, she might have been painted a vamp. She might have been played by Bindu. Today, she’s just someone whose dreams haven’t worked out. The other women of the family bitch about her, but they don’t get her. They’re still living inside Bawarchi or Teen Bahuraniyan. There’s a great idea right there — about how complex people (or people with complexes) aren’t always understood by “simple” people who see everything in black and white. Sadly, the film is itself a simplistic affair. Its idea of a metaphor is an electrician who clambers up a pole and remarks: Sab taaren uljhi hui hain!

So yes, all wires are crossed in this family, which comes together after the death of its patriarch. There are small, sharp moments of observation, but nothing special enough to warrant this cast, many of whom give off a “let’s chip in and do this for a friend who’s making her first film” vibe. In an early scene, the patriarch, a musician, talks about the importance of finding the sur. It’s something Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi never finds, the perfect tone that would resonate with all these people, all their quirks, all the drama, all the comedy, all the theatrical contrivances, all the stabs at cinema. Despite the showy tracking shots, we’re left with the staticness of a stage play. Still, I don’t want to come down too hard on what’s obviously a labour of love. I didn’t hate the film, exactly. It’s just that, with the names involved, I wanted to walk away with more than just a shrug.

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Posted in: Cinema: Hindi