Tag Archives: Anu Menon

Movie Review: Waiting (2015)

Waiting3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon

Waiting was the closing night film at the 2016 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.

Writer-director Anu Menon presents an unvarnished look at the lives of those with seriously ill loved ones in the smart drama Waiting.

A young wife, Tara (Kalki Koechlin), finds herself in the southern city of Cochin after her husband is injured on a work trip. The husband, Rajat (Arjun Mathur), suffered serious head injuries and lingers in a coma while doctors wait for swelling in his brain to subside.

Alone in a strange city at night, Tara turns to the only other person in the hospital cafeteria for comfort. Retiree Shiv (Naseeruddin Shah) can sympathize with Tara’s situation. His own wife, Pankaja (Suhasini Maniratnam), has been in a coma for eight months following a stroke.

Shiv patiently talks Tara through the torrent of emotions she’s experiencing: disbelief, anger, depression. He’s been through them all himself. Looking past Tara’s short temper and foul mouth, Shiv sees in her the daughter he and his wife never had.

Being together gives Shiv and Tara something they both need: a way to relieve their boredom. Having spent my fair share of time in hospitals in recent years, I can attest that the predominant feeling is not panic or sadness, but tedium. Everything happens slowly. Answers are vague and in short supply. The chairs are uncomfortable. The walk to the cafeteria isn’t nearly as long as you wish it would be to kill all the time you have on your hands.

Palling around gives the two spouses something to do. Shiv explains to Tara that her duty is to take care of herself while the nurses take care of Rajat. But time spent together allows them to put off answering the terrible question of what their own lives will be like if their spouses never wake up.

Dr. Nirupam (Rajat Kapoor) is the surgeon responsible for the well-being of both patients. His instincts are often correct, but he finds it expedient to project an air of confidence regardless of his level of certainty. He’s not exactly compassionate.

It falls to Dr. Nirupam to have a frank conversation with Shiv about Pankaja’s quality of life. The doctor says, “You have to ask yourself, what would she want?” Shiv replies, “She would want to get better.”

Sometimes people can’t get better, and the film addresses the challenge of accepting that fact. Menon doesn’t try provoke a reaction from her audience, instead presenting her characters in a natural way that sparks the audiences’ empathy. It’s sad without being melancholy.

Both lead actors are so strong in very different ways. Shah’s character is easier to sympathize with, but Koechlin makes Tara likeable and relatable, despite her brash exterior. Kapoor is solid as the film’s equivalent of a villain: a man who’s trying to do what he thinks is right, albeit in an off-putting way.

The straight-forward tone of Menon’s story makes it feel familiar to those who’ve spent time in hospital waiting rooms while also serving as a useful guide for those who haven’t. Waiting is a real achievement, and an enjoyable one at that.

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Movie Review: London Paris New York (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

The starting point for debutant writer-director Anu Menon’s London Paris New York (LPNY, henceforth) was undoubtedly the allure of setting a story in the three glamorous title cities; the plot and characters surely came second. But when the movie isn’t being a glorified travel show, interesting characters add spark to this edgy love story.

There’s a lot demanded of leads Nikhil (Ali Zafar) and Lalitha (Aditi Rao Hydari), who, after a chance meeting in London, utter almost every line of the film’s dialog. The young adults have in common the fact that they are both on their own for the first time, their overprotective parents having reluctantly agreed to let them attend college abroad. When Lalitha misses her connecting flight to New York, the strangers decide to spend the day exploring London together.

They have the types of conversations only had by movie characters (have you ever asked someone you just met, “So what do you want to do with your life?”), but form a genuine connection. Nikhil promises to come visit Lalitha in New York. When Nikhil tracks Lalitha down in Paris two years later, we learn that he didn’t keep his promise.

Nikhil starts out pushy and entitled but is humbled as the story progresses. I didn’t care for Zafar’s smarmy delivery in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, which he toned down for LPNY. He’s strong in the dramatic scenes but at his best in lighter moments when he can flash his killer smile.

The best surprise of LPNY is Lalitha’s character. Unlike many female leads, who are really just vehicles for the emotional growth of the male main character, Lalitha is an equal partner for Nikhil. That means she’s equally responsible for the bad choices that drive the two apart.

Hydari strikes the right balance with Lalitha, a young woman of strong ideals but lacking some emotional maturity. Hydari’s best moment is when Lalitha turns a devastating realization into an opportunity for revenge, her coldness underscored by a deep hurt.

Zafar, who made his name as a rock star, wrote and performed all of the music for LPNY. The soundtrack is appropriately poppy for a film about young urbanites. The music features prominently during the three montages of the highlights of each city. Though I suppose it’s hard to avoid showing iconic sites like the London Eye and Times Square, the montages feel stale.

Even when it comes to the music, Hydari again steals the show. She bravely chose to sing her own parts on two songs, giving the numbers a more natural feel than when actors lip sync to voices not their own.

In the United States, LPNY has an MPAA rating of PG-13 due to references to sex and scenes of the characters drinking and smoking. LPNY is a bit grittier than a typical Bollywood rom-com, so it’s not appropriate for the whole family. But those old enough to appreciate it will be rewarded.

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