Movie Review: Turning 30 (2011)

Zero Stars (out of 4)

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Writer-director Alankrita Shrivastava wanted her debut film Turning 30 to portray young, urban Indian women in a fun yet realistic way. I hope Shrivastava’s portrayal is inaccurate, because the female characters in Turning 30 are pitiable.

Days before her 30th birthday, Naina (Gul Panag) seems to have an ideal life: a house, a good job at an ad agency and a boyfriend, Rishabh (Sid Makkar), who’s ready to propose. When Naina’s ideas are stolen at work and Rishabh abruptly breaks up with her, Naina falls apart.

This is a fine set up for a story, but a set up is all it should be. Instead, Naina’s despair over her unsettled life is the story of Turning 30. Any time she sees or thinks about Rishabh, Naina gets a forlorn look in her eye and cries in the rain. She begs him to take her back, accosts his parents and belabors anyone who will listen about how lost she is without Rishabh and how she doesn’t know what to do with her life. It’s pathetic.

That’s not to say Naina’s reaction is unrealistic. It’s just that being sad isn’t the interesting part of getting dumped: it’s how a person gets over it. Naina doesn’t make any attempt to get over Rishabh or take charge of her career until the last fifteen minutes of this two-hour movie. Her plight devolves from dull to excruciating.

After Naina is dumped, she quickly rebounds into a sexual relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Jai (Purab Kohli), a successful artist who’s ready to settle down. Despite knowing that Jai’s in love with her, Naina sleeps with him repeatedly, but always with the caveat that she’s not over Rishabh yet — as though her honesty absolves her from leading him on.

This level of self-absorption would almost be forgivable if Naina were a nice person, but she’s not. In addition to her cruel treatment of Jai, she’s short-tempered with her mother, her maid, and her coworkers. When her friend, Malini (Tillotama Shome), breaks down in tears and discloses that she’s a lesbian, Naina looks at her as though she’s a freak and makes no attempt to comfort her.

As uninspiring a heroine as Naina is, Shrivastava is almost misogynistic in the way she writes Naina’s other best pal, Ruksana (Jeneva Talwar). Ruksana discovers her husband is cheating on her at the same time she learns that she’s pregnant. The pregnancy temporarily puts a halt to hubby’s wandering, but he strays again as soon as the baby is born. Ruksana tells Naina and Malini that her husband’s cheating no longer bothers her, now that she has a baby to love her.

Excuse me?

What’s worse is that Naina and Malini don’t even challenge Ruksana. No “you deserve better than that” pep talk. Just a shrug and an “as long as you’re happy” that seems to indicate that this is to be expected.

So, in a nutshell, Shrivastava’s realistic portrayal of the life of a modern Indian woman amounts to this: Get educated. Get a job. Land a husband before you get too old/before the unrelenting parental pressure to marry becomes unbearable/before he finds somebody with more money. Get knocked up and quit your job. Hubby will (and, judging by the women in this movie, maybe should) ditch you for a younger, hotter woman. But, hey, at least you’ve got a baby.

Why bother?


5 thoughts on “Movie Review: Turning 30 (2011)

  1. Pingback: Worst Bollywood Movies of 2011 « Access Bollywood

  2. jc

    I recently saw this movie and actually liked it. I understand that the way these women responded to their circumstances seemed a bit dated and definitely undermined feminism in general. But it was the first Bollywood film I’d seen and was pleasantly surprised by the acting, the story overall and production values. Despite it’s faults it was still entertaining. I will be checking out more Indian/Bollywood films. One question I had was why was the film in English,with English subtitles? I thought it a bit odd. I understood everything they said, though they occasionally spoke in Hindu?, I think. I really liked Jeneva Talwar also, but have been unable to find other movies with her prominently represented. Has she any starring roles in other films I wonder?

    1. Kathy

      Thanks for the comment, jc. Welcome to the world of Bollywood! Regarding the subtitles, I assume that it’s just easier to subtitle all of the dialog in a film rather than turning it off when characters speak English and on when they speak Hindi. Also, it may be to aid the hearing impaired or people who have trouble understanding accents. (For example, my American mother-in-law has to turn on subtitles for British programs like “Downton Abbey”).

      As you watch more Bollywood movies, pay attention to when the English words spoken don’t match the subtitles. I always find it funny when a character swears in English, and the subtitle replaces the word with something less offensive, like “darn” or “crap.”

      I’m not sure if Jeneva Talwar has starred in many other films, but she did have a role in movie I enjoyed, “Patiala House.” Here’s a link to Jeneva’s IMDb page:

      1. jc

        Thank you very much Kathy! I appreciate the tip and will make a point to catch “Patiala House”. Interesting about the subtitles, and I did notice even in “Turning 30!” that when the actors swore in English, they only showed symbols (*@#**,indicating profanity) with the subtitles. Very interesting film, as it presented life as much more modern and different in Mumbai than many Americans (who don’t travel abroad) would imagine or have seen represented in many movies. I’ve always thought that film imitated life (culture), so it’s interesting to watch. I suspect that the lack of simulated sex scenes or nudity in Bollywood is the rule, unlike many similarly themed American films. Even though I was surprised that Gul Panag’s character swore so much, and was so open sexually (implied). I certainly understand the critical opinions regarding Naina’s obsession with both turning 30 and getting her boyfriend Rishab back, especially after he discarded her so heartlessly. She is still young, beautiful and has excellent job skills that aren’t appreciated and dealing with others taking credit for her work. And her friend Ruksana (the amazing Ms. Talwar) who seems too easily accepting of her cheating husband. Being a film buff, I confess I’d never really seen any Bollywood films and now feel like I’ve really been missing out. This film opened up a whole new world for me.

        1. Kathy

          Hi, jc. “Turning 30” is more of an independent film, so it deals with sexuality more openly than bigger budget Bollywood films that try to appeal to the whole family. Glad you enjoyed it!


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