With its old-fashioned morality and hokey melodrama, Super Nani (“Super Grandma“) is targeted at female senior citizens. Yet, were I a woman in my golden years, I’d feel pretty damned insulted that the only roles the men who wrote and directed this film can imagine for me are that of doting mother, housekeeper, and sex object.
Rekha plays the titular Super Nani, Bharti Bhatia, whose family treats her like dirt. Her kids are sick of her meddling in their lives, and her husband, R. K. (Randhir Kapoor), is just plain mean to her. Bharti bears their insults while privately judging their life choices and accrediting their success to her prayers.
When her daughter, Gargi, announces her plan to enter a “live-in relationship,” the music swells and the camera zooms to close-up of Bharti’s face as dramatically as if Gargi had said she’d killed someone.
Bharti’s grandson, Mann (Sharman Joshi), arrives from America and can’t stand to see his grandmother go unappreciated. Against Bharti’s will — and with the help of a dreadlocked Anupam Kher — Mann goads her into becoming a model.
Let’s examine the problems here. Bharti’s independence is totally forced from outside, not generated from within. Apart from a few prayers asking God why her family isn’t nicer to her, Bharti is unwilling to demand respect for herself.
(Mann even calls shenanigans on Bharti’s piety, telling her that God doesn’t make miracles, people do. Take that, devout old ladies!)
When Mann generates his plan to help Nani get her groove back, he doesn’t draw on any of her life experience. He says, in essence, “You used to be hot. Let’s make you a model!” Cue some creepy exchanges in which Mann appears to have the hots for his grandmother.
Why not have Bharti succeed at something unrelated to her appearance? R.K. always shouts that her place is in the kitchen, so why not have her become a famous chef?
After Bharti becomes a successful model, she’s uses her Nani superpower — guilt — to shame her kids into apologizing to her. But her guilt trip isn’t strong enough on its own to convince them, and it’s totally ineffective on R.K. Again, Mann has to rescue his grandmother by shaming the rest of the family into respecting her.
So much of the movie rides Mann’s shoulders, and Joshi is just awful in the role. He shouts and overacts, heedless of tone. The only actor who doesn’t have cause to be embarrassed by her performance in this movie is Rekha. She’s tragic in a reserved way, and quite funny when she gets the chance to be. The haunted-house-old-lady makeup she sports before her model makeover is a joke.
Being grateful for the kindness of a mother (or a father) is obviously good, but Super Nani seems like a backhanded tribute.