Actor-turned-director Harsh Chhaya serves relatable characters and humorous situations but falls short to cook the plot with all his heart.
What happens when an ensemble cast consisting of an army of promising actors (almost all from theatre background) assemble for one film? It either flies rocket high, or else makes ‘Too Many Cooks Spoil The Broth’ adage true. Khajoor Pe Atke is the latter case. Courtesy: half hearted execution to a reasonably average script, reminding the audience yet again that it’s not the actor but the script that rules.
As the health of one of the middle aged family members Devinder Sharma (Birendar) starts to deteriorate in ICU in a hospital in Mumbai, his close family (in Lucknow, Bhopal, and Indore) has no choice but to travel urgently to be with him during his last days. While the eldest of all the brothers Jeetender (Manoj Pahwa) wishes to rush from Lucknow, his wife Sushila (Seema Pahwa) counts of double the money they’ll have to shell out to be able to fly at the eleventh hour. On the other hand, there is the youngest brother Ravinder (Vinay Pathak) who wants to attend his meetings rather than being with his brother, but is reminded again and again of his duties. Lastly, there is Lalita Didi (Dolly Ahluwalia) who wants to be there for Devinder, but reluctantly chooses convenience as Jeetender is anyway going.
The story is quite simplistic- in its ideation, approach, and the way it has been presented. There is an inherent message to the film- a large concept of family bonding and ties, but is presented as an underlying theme. It never comes out in your face, and you will have to keep reading between the lines to be able to decode it. Sadly, the film’s treatment never lets you invest in the emotions of the characters. Neither does it make you feel for them.
The film overall has a comic feel wherein the entire hospital drama has been made into a happy-go-lucky affair. One of the family members is battling life and death, while others have been grappling with their own greed, hobbies, favourite pastimes, activities they enjoy, and their own commitments. Of course, there is a lot happening in terms of layers to the plot. But none of it actually connects.
For one, the film is comic. A lot of the times, you don’t even laugh at the punch lines. A major chunk of the punches are so loud and over dramatic that you are put off by their inclusion in the film. A lot of the writing depends on chaos (not emotionally), hence it alienates you with what the film actually wants to convey. Yes, there are some situations that bring a smile to your face- sometimes a good laugh, but they are too few to even remember later.
Secondly, the film asks you to think of your own family and take relations seriously. It intends to give a strong loving message. But not for a moment do you wish to do that while watching the film.
Give it to the makers for presenting characters that are real. These people are everywhere around you. They are even in your family- your father, chacha, bua, tauji, mama, mami, your cousins- you see these people on screen, making this the only good thing about the entire film. You instantly relate to these characters. You wish to go on their journey along. But the screenplay prevents you from doing so.
The reactions of characters on situations created are also appropriate, but the only problem lies with the way these reactions have been put up on screen.
Coming to talk of the overall look of the film, it seems like a skit stage rather than a feature film. The colours, costumes, locations, art- lack a big time making minimal visual connect with the audience.
Manoj Pahwa is the real charmer. Enough has been said about his acting genius in the past. He proves his mettle in almost every frame. He is brilliant. A lot of the film rests on his shoulders and he delivers a winning act. Seema Pahwa too is very good with her expressions and body language. She fits ably to the character.
Vinay Pathak does great, but gets loud a few times. He has a major role and he puts his best foot forward. Dolly Ahluwalia is under-utilised. She’s a magnificent actor, and isn’t put to perform to her best here. Alka Amin delivers one of her best acts here. Her trait of constantly eating in the hospital will win her many claps and laughs.
Suneeta Sengupta, Vicky Arora, Nagesh Bhonsle, Sanah Kapoor, Prathamesh Parab, Kishore Chougule among others too have done reasonably well.
It must be said here that the casting has been done very thoughtfully. Each of the actors belong to the characters assigned.
Music by Bickram Ghosh is utterly average. Even the background score contributes almost nothing to the plot. Cinematography by Sidhant Chowdhry is average and nothing to shout about. There are no great shots, no visually enriching locations. Editing by Sattyajit Gazmer seems amateurish where you feel disintegrated even when the scenes simply cut. Production Design by Nandu Mirche is very basic, with seemingly no intelligent thought towards visual appeal.
No doubt, films with simple stories have done great in the past. What was required in Khajoor Pe Atke was a thoughtful and insightful screenplay and a little more work on the technical grounds. The direction seems naive. Could have been easily avoided.