Dec 10, 2018
We’re back today with another Netflix Original film, this time another offering from India, part of Netflix’s initial six feature deal with the country. For the other offerings from earlier this year, check out “Love Per Square Foot” (Episode #052), “Sometimes” (Episode #136), “Lust Stories” (Episode #168), and “Brjj Mohan Amar Rahe” (Episode #220). And if you have any suggestions from Bollywood, let me know at onemoviepunch.com, or reach out over social media.
Today’s movie is “Rajma Chawal” (2018), the Netflix Original Indian dramedy directed by Leena Yadav and written for the screen in collaboration with Vivek Anchalia and Manu Rishi Chadha. The film follows Raj (Rishi Kapoor), a technology-ignorant father attempting to repair his relationship via social media with his millennial son Kabir (Anirudh Tanwar), after moving back to Old Delhi from their more affluent neighborhood. However, after his initial friend request was rejected, he creates a female profile, and feels connected, until it all comes apart.
I’m not as well versed in Bollywood films as I should be. My wife absolutely loves the lighter output from the film scene, and there are plenty of great storytelling opportunities with so many cultures and changes in one place. I’m also a huge fan of Indian cuisine, so today’s film titled after a red kidney bean curry dish, itself a sort of mélange of flavors and cultures, seems like a no brainer to watch. “Rajma Chawal” is a film about that convergence, not just of cultures as in Old Delhi, but between generations, changing as fast as technology can alienate us from one another. And the film opens up, appropriately enough, with a conflict between Raj and Kabir over his desire to eat rajma chawal with a spoon instead of with his fingers as is traditionally done. It’s a nice setup that we watch unfold over the course of the nearly two hour film.
Now, don’t get me wrong, parents catfishing their children, even adult children, is a very bad idea. It sets up a weird dynamic that continues throughout the film, with Kabir finding a connection with a woman, and developing false emotional attachments. And in Old Delhi, where literally anything could happen, of course Kabir finds the woman whose photo was used to set up the account, named Seher (Amyra Dastur), and things get even more complicated, especially as Kabir is learning to love Old Delhi as much as his family, and forming a new band to replace the one which broke up with their move. Dramedy is the best descriptor, actually, because it is more drama than comedy, often, and all put together with that classic Bollywood film-making, putting the right emotion into every scene even if it clashes with the overall tone.
I think the most distressing thing about the film was that most of the music was so clearly lip-synced, and that’s a big problem for a protagonist that is supposed to be a musician. I loved the music, but it had all the believability of George Clooney in Episode #322 (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”). It also writes itself into a corner towards the end, blowing up everything, and creating space for a rushed, but satisfying ending with some muddled messaging in the resolution. The cast is pretty solid, and the costumes and sets are great. It’s fun, but it has its flaws.
“Rajma Chawal” (2018) is the fifth Netflix Original Indian film for this year, a family dramedy that begins with a father catfishing a son, and ends with family finding love and meaning in their lives. It has its problems, but it also has its strengths, and will be sure to entertain fans of Bollywood or family dramedies in general. It may also make you stupid hungry for curry, which I’m putting on the calendar for next week.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 7.8/10
“Rajma Chawal” (2018) is rated TV-MA and is currently streaming on Netflix.