Director Neeraj Udhwani’s Netflix original Hindi film is a love letter to the Irani cafes of the city of Mumbai, in an emotional way
A lot of what Mumbai is known for has been explored in Maska. In a dialogue it is clearly indicated that the age old Irani cafes, extremely popular among the population of the city, have been now reduced to a very few number. This very emotion has been picked up and served to you nicely, informing you what it takes to stick to your roots. Even when the newer generation is at bay, what is the feeling that still reminds a millennial of his/her legacy.
Diana Irani (Manisha Koirala) runs an ancestral Irani cafe, Cafe Rustom with utmost passion. Her only wish in life is to keep the cafe running, for which she keeps pestering her only son Rumi (Prit Kamani). Rumi however has been bitten by the acting bug and wants to make it big in Bollywood. Enter Persis Mistry (Shirley Setia), a girl in the neighbourhood who is currently writing a coffee table book on the Irani cafes, and Mallika Chopra (Nikita Dutta), who Rumi meets in his acting class.
Written by Udhwani himself with dialogues by Ishita Moitra, the film has a very interesting idea. Covering a wide spectrum on how the city and particularly these ancient cafes are special for a whole lot of people, the writing is sweet and charming. In addition to painting the whole Irani cafes for what they stand for- including their ambience, their food, their flavour, and most importantly the ‘stories’ they have seen, the film is also a lot more.
Generation gap, the struggles of parents trying to understand their kids and their dreams, mental turmoil that probably the youngsters have to go through, those emotional blackmails that parents often resort to, wanting to stick to your ambitions, realising what you are good at, sticking to some notions and leaving behind some of them- have all been shown effectively. Mind you, these are difficult to show on screen in limited runtime. That too, in a way that keeps a smile on your face.
Watch the trailer here:
Apart from this, struggles of an aspiring actor and what all he/she has to go through in terms of emotions has also been incorporated well into the script. The film is an ode to Mumbai and its spirit, most importantly and how it brings forth the stories of the people is commendable.
However, it does come with a share of flaws as well. Minor though. During the second half, you feel the makers are trying hard to get you to the point of climax. And the story that by far was running smoothly, needs a little push to reach the destination. Also, you do predict the end, and that’s a let down. But then, films like these by their very nature, don’t carry a twist. Also, since it’s a film depending on nostalgia quite a bit, many viewers probably won’t be able to relate to the story line.
Manisha Koirala is earnest and she has taken a great effort. Her dialogue delivery seems plastic a couple of times, but you like her for what she has brought to the role- charm, dignity, passion, and genuineness.
Prit Kamani has also done a very good job. There are parts where he is auditioning for a film in the story. Such are the parts where you marvel his talent. It’s ironical of the plot that he otherwise acts so well, but when actually wanting to land a film role, he isn’t able to act. He is naive carrying a chocolate boy image and that’s why he is so likeable.
Nikita Dutta has an elaborate role and she suits well. She brings shades not only in the film, but also in the life of the protagonist. She looks elegant and performs ably. Shirley Setia too has a say in the plot, and she does remarkably well contributing to the plot in a definitive manner. Although, the two female leads primarily aid the protagonist in his quest, they both are very much strong headed individuals. Give it up to Udhwani for this meaningful characterisation.
Jaaved Jafferi in a very special role is impactful. Whenever he comes on screen, you get substance.
Songs although not memorable, leave an impact while you are watching the film. They add flavour to the narrative. They bind the situations well. The score by Mikey McCleary and Ketan Sodha also lifts your mood up many a times.
Cinematography by Eeshit Narain is very good, especially the soothing lighting. The scenes become engaging because they are shot realistically and also the cinematic feel is maintained. It’s a simple straight film, but never does it feel substandard. Production design by Sarada Ramaseshan has also been done with thought. Nothing has been overdone. Everything is just in the right proportion.
Editing by Farooq Hundekar is also impressive. Of course by the default settings of the writing, you know what’s going to happen. Still, the editing keeps you invested, for how the narrative has been structured. There is a particular sequence after Mallika meets Rumi’s mother for the first time. It has been edited well, for it shows the conflicting situation of the man fittingly.
All in all, a good watch. One of those films that you put in the category of ‘feel good’ movies. And yes, there is a lot to cherish too.