There has been a rash of middle-of-the-road type films in the recent past, which ensconces itself in a typical Delhi-based family setting. ‘Badhai Ho’ comes to mind immediately and prior to that, there have been a few which were strongly rooted in the upcountry, Punjabi milieu.
In this case, the title ‘Rajma Chawal’ (Netflix original) itself is a dead giveaway, given that it is one of the most sought-after vegetarian food items in that part of India, uniquely garnished with a set of spices typical of the region. Leena Yadav, who has been critically acclaimed for her earlier works (‘Parched’) does not bother hereafter to establish the locational details any further.
Instead, she gently lets in the cultural differences waft into the proceedings as she unfurls a family drama, of one such unit when its members move residence from the tony New Delhi zone to the chaotic, overcrowded Chandni Chowk area in the walled city area. The father (Rishi Kapoor) is lost in nostalgia and returns to the area where he spent his childhood after his wife passes away. The son (Anirudh Tanwar), beginning a life in music and western style band medleys hates it to the core. This is the outer core of the story.
Yadav takes us through the complications of generation gap, imaginary and real issues obstructing a smooth, working relationship between a middle-aged father and his young son and how updation of oneself in the ever-changing world is a must for any bond to sustain.
Employing a mix of subterfuge and liberal use of social media tools, the father manages an online bonding with the son who slowly adjusts to the new world around, over-populated with do-gooders leaving him with no privacy. The director interweaves the heroine’s (Amyra Dastur) small-town upbringing and her great escape from Meerut to the big, bad world of Delhi into the main story where she struggles to achieve a toehold in the heartless middle-class world of the capital city. How each of these principal characters bumble around and finally make peace with their identities is the final route the film adopts.
With a run time of 129 minutes, the film is not long in any case. What keeps the viewer engaged well into the second hour is the versatility of Rishi Kapoor who seamlessly merges into the role of a hapless father, who is anxious to see his son do well for himself and keep a communication channel open with him. Debutante Anirudh Tanwar is adequate while Amyra Dastur is appealing.
Yet, the treatment gets bogged down as it moves into the climax by a needless stretching of sentiment and borderline melodrama as the youngsters come to terms with their backgrounds and make peace. But for the glitch of this nature, this film adds itself pretty comfortably into the list of eminently watchable family socials. It is also clear that non-commercial streams of thought can now find a solid platform in the digital medium, with an exposure hitherto unattained.