Here, we have another feel-good, polished, sentimental tear-jerker, another impeccably-packaged comfort food film from Team Rajkumar Hirani of the VVC stable - sweetly titled Ferrari Ki Sawaari. With long-time Hirani-associate Rajesh Mapuskar directing his first film, it looks no different, or feels no different from the three superhits we've seen from Hirani himself. It's a winning formula, of course, so why would Chopra want to change anything? Also, with a better-fashioned tribute to his own son (than SRK with his magnum opus last year), VVC seems to have struck yet another guilty-pleasure chord with his audience. It may be termed as yet another case of exceedingly manipulative storytelling - forcibly fashioned to extract that lump from your throat and shove it back down, but boy, do they do it well.
Kids - check, cricket-check, parents - check, message - same but new bottle. And most importantly, Tendulkar - CHECK. TRIPLE CHECK. Folks, we have a winner! But it isn't that simple. It is difficult to ignore the fact that a good amount of film-crafting sense goes into making these stories, with Bollywood lately having forgotten how to elicit emotions from its audiences (other than laughing hopelessly at fart sounds).
Every second kid growing up in India has dreamed about playing cricket for his country, and tons of them have had their dreams squashed by the great Indian engineer-doctor package. Mapuskar has ingeniously designed a blatantly commercial story meant to remind you of those days and to remind you of what COULD have happened if you were in a so-cute happy-ending Hirani universe.
Hirani may have tons of Parsi friends, because his interpretation of a Parsi household teeters lovingly on the line between caricature and affection. The Deboo household, consisting of Sharman Joshi (as Rustom Deboo), Boman Irani (Mota Pappa Deboo, duh) and the impressive Ritvik Sahore as the kid Kayoze Deboo with stars in his eyes, is a world that is so idealistic that you feel yourselves instantly rooting for them. The ridiculously contrived track of the stolen Ferrari and the wild goosechase that follows, is illogical, yes, but there are intermittent moments of pure genius, moments that convince you to forget about silly things like logic and feasibility, and revel in the satisfaction of knowing that come what may, you WILL be rewarded for these tears. For instance, to establish Sharman Joshi's Gandhi-like character in the first few frames of the film, by having him forcibly drive all the way to an RTO to pay a fine despite not being caught, just to be an example to his kid, is painstakingly saccharine. But, somehow, with the specific combination of background music (remarkably touching) and Sharman's holier-than-thou smile, you can't help but smile. Another rewarding moment is when little Deboo finds out the truth about his grumpy, cynical Mota Pappa - you know where it's heading, but you still want to go along.
That's not to say this is a perfect ride, because bumps are aplenty - like the non-existent editing, some half-baked tracks, the assumption that Tendulkar does not watch television on a cricket tour, and that news channels may have not reported the only gleaming Red Ferrari in the city as stolen, and a silly overacted climax that involves Sharman Joshi breaking down on national television for a 'lesson learnt' hook. But, oh, you do want to be exploited with some sassy writing, don't you?
Also, maybe, it is finally time to recognize the contribution of one the most underrated departments of the filmmaking process. The role of a casting director in many ways is a thankless job, so behind-the-scenes that many film industries do not feel the need to commemorate the title, evident from no such awards category at the millions of functions every year.
Mapuskar's film (casting by Rohan Mapuskar) is another recipient of this forgotten art with the prime example being the casting of the bumbling security guard. Veteran Deepak Shirke, who is well-known for his representation as a South-Indian villain or gangster in tens of hundreds of films over the years (who can forget the slum-king Anna Shetty in the original Agneepath?), puts in a hilarious performance with his slurred delivery and impeccable chemistry with his equally-impressive partner-in-crime Aakash Dabhade. Seema Bhargava, as the Haryanvi marriage-fixer-upper Babbo Didi, is loud and endearing. Nilesh Divekar as spoilt brat Pakya, the reason behind the Ferrari mess, has superbly awkward body language, perfect for his part. Then there's the star of the film, little Ritvik Sahore, who convinces us - with his excellent batting technique - that he is worth the fuss. Sharman, as his doting Pappa, is decent for most part, but tends to get a bit too over-sincere, as he did in that cringeworthy interview scene of 3 Idiots. Boman Irani, for once, gets his eccentricities spot-on after playing over-the-top characters in almost every film. A special mention must be made for the brilliant Paresh Rawal, and you'd think he knows a few corrupt MCA officials personally to pull off the typical sportsman-turned-official act so convincingly. The scene between him and Boman, where they meet after years, is effortlessly natural, remnant of the Naseeruddin Shah cameo in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.
All in all, Ferrari Ki Sawaari, dangerously close to being devoid of identity, is still a film where Hirani and co. attempt something different by daring to not have the conventional 'heroine'. The good part is you don't feel the lack of one.
- Rahul Desai aka Reel Reptile