Director: Anu Menon
Writer: Atika Chohan (dialogue), Anu Menon, James Ruzicka
Stars: Naseeruddin Shah, Kalki Koechlin, Rajat Kapoor, Arjun Mathur
Runtime: 92 min
Released: 27 May 2016
Synopsis: Newlywed Tara Deshpande receives the horrifying news that her husband has been involved in a car accident and is lying comatose in a hospital in Kochi. At the same hospital, Shiv Kumar diligently visits his wife of forty years who has been in a coma for the past eight months. Tara and Shiv are two very different people, but their similar situations draw them together. The two unlikely friends share their griefs and hopes.
Review: Two people, waiting.
This is an apt one-line description of a film about life, lasting love and impending loss which explores a zone Bollywood doesn’t bother with. Which is itself so refreshing that you want to champion the attempt, as well some of the outcome, even if it doesn’t hit all the marks, all the way.
Shiv (Naseeruddin Shah) and Tara (Kalki Koechlin) are unlikely companions in one of life’s most difficult journeys, as they count out days and nights in a Kochi hospital. They are waiting for a sign from their respective comatose spouses : Shiv from his motionless-for-several-months wife (Suhasini Maniratnam) and Tara from her recently-critically-injured husband (Arjun Mathur).
Will they be able to breathe on their own, walk out of the antiseptic rooms they are incarcerated in, surrounded by sterile machines and white-coated doctors wreathed in smiles which doesn’t reach their eyes?
Those are the questions Shiv and Tara wrestle with, the former with the stoic fortitude which comes from a long wait ; the latter, impatient, hurting, wanting to solve everything now, now, now. Shiv’s marriage has lasted for forty long years ; Tara’s for a few weeks. She’s amazed at the potentially long shelf life of a relationship she’s just got into; he smiles at her gently.
Both Naseer and Kalki are good fits for their parts in a film which segues easily between English, Hindi and a smattering of Malayalam : the nursing staff in the hospital is Malayali, as it is in most hospitals in the country, and it is a nice to see characters using a line or two in a language not their own to make a point.
Kalki is a persuasive performer, making us watch, even if she comes off abrupt and forced in bits but that’s more to do with the way the part has been written. That’s something we can say for the plotting overall, which feels simultaneously underdeveloped and overwritten.
Naseer comes off best, and that figures because he has the most life experience. He brings a quiet dignity and heart-breaking resilience to a man who has walked alongside his companion – theirs has been a marriage of companionship and abiding affection– for a long time, and who doesn’t want to let her go.