Hindi Medium....Fun in parts

MUMBAI: Hindi Medium is meant to be a satire on the education system as it has evolved in India lately. Just about every institution likes to add the word ‘International’ to its name and claim to be affiliated to a system of education somewhere in the West. 

It is a take on the money versus schooling and the snob value added to education.

Publications have taken to ranking educational institutions and many swear by these rankings. And, just about every family on the top of the social ladder in Delhi, where the story is based, wants its ward to get into the number one in ranking; the rest would be a compromise and a blot on their status during society parties.

Saba Qamar is one such mother who wants her daughter to go to Delhi Grammar School, ranked number one.

The characters of Irrfan Khan and Saba are an old Delhi, Chandni Chowk, couple, married after a phase of teenage courting.  The couple have a daughter. Irrfan, a ladies tailor’s son, has grown up to be a millionaire now owning a huge women’s high-end dress showroom. 

Along with that, he also possesses the gift of gab. His customers, mostly women and into buying wedding trousseaus, usually go away having bought more than they planned to.

While, Irrfan, a dropout and has no English, Saba, a graduate, is fluent. Irrfan and Saba’s love is intact but Saba has just one ambition which is to get her daughter into Delhi’s number one school.

To this end, the process starts when Saba convinces Irrfan to shift to a posh Delhi locality, Vasant Vihar, because Chandni Chowk is downmarket and schools number one to five would not admit a child from this area. Some schools also have rules about admitting new students only if they are wards of ex-students or those belonging to vicinity.

Having moved, Saba now tries to fit in to the new neighbourhood. She pretends to be in with the rich neighbours but Irrfan’s way of life is a pure giveaway of his old Delhi ways. They are soon told that being rich is not the only criteria, being suave and savvy is also important. The neighbour’s kids would not play with Saba’s daughter because she speaks Hindi, not English!

Saba tries a number of ways but when everything fails, Irrfan is informed of the 25% RTE (Right To Education) quota meant for the poor as per the law set by the authorities. On Saba’s insistence, Irrfan applies. What ensues thereafter is another story altogether.

To prove that theirs is a poor family, Irrfan and Saba shift to a typical Delhi jhuggi jhopdi basti. That is because the school authorities plan to visit and verify the poor applicants. Here, in poor basti, the film takes a detour, going into the equation between selfish rich and the sacrificing poor. Irrfan’s neighbour, Deepak Dobrail, has also applied for his son’s admission under RTE and what ensues is pure 1960s drama of pure heart versus evil heart.

So far riding on subtle humour and human bondage, the film unfortunately decides to conclude on preaching. This costs about 20 extra minutes to finish. Its 133 minute duration starts feeling like 180. The climax is way too predictable. Which means, once again, that the editors have little say nowadays. Music plays to no effect. Dialogue is simple and witty. Saba’s takiya kalaam about her daughter ending up as a drug addict is fun.

This is an Irrfan vehicle but the one who excels is Deepak Dobriyal in an author-backed role. Saba, as an obsessed wife and mother, follows next. Irrfan remains his usual competent self.

Hindi Medium has had a weak opening. The film has been exempted from paying entertainment tax in Gujarat and Maharashtra and some more states may follow suit. With a good word of mouth, the film should pick over the weekend.

Producers: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Dinesh Vijan.

Director: Saket Chaudhary.

Cast: Irrfan Khan, Saba Qamar, Deepak Dobriyal.

Half Girlfriend......Half Hearted!

We have had titles such as JhuthaSach, ThodisiBewafaii which raised some pre-release debates. But, in the absence of such widespread and active media we have now, not as much as Half Girlfriend did. Normally too, people are in a habit of defining friendship with unnecessary adjectives like True friend, loyal friend etc. A friend is a friend and, similarly, one has a man/boyfriend or a girlfriend. 

The title Half Girlfriend may have sounded good enough for the novel ChetanBhagat wrote since it would help raise curiosity and sell copies. In the film, it sounds funny despite explanations. Does a girl qualify to be called girlfriend after she has slept with the boy? That is how it comes across in this film. Since Shraddha Kapoor has no such immediate plans, she suggests Arjun Kapoor consider her as his half girlfriend! 

This, then, is an indication of things to come. 

Arjun Kapoor, a native of a small town in Bihar, applies at Delhi’s prestigious college, St Stephens, on sports quota being an ace basketball player. He is being interviewed by a panel but is unable to answer since he knows no English. He suggests he be interviewed in Hindi rather than ‘the language of a country thousands of miles away’! The panel looks extremely ashamed of their insistence on English no matter all the education meted out by the faculty is in English. 

He calls up his mom, Seema Biswas, who runs a school in his hometown and expresses a desire to return because of language problem. She gives him a new mantra about never to give up or something to that effect! While he is talking to Seema, he spots Shraddha practicing basketball. More than the mother’s mantra it isShraddha magic that makeshim ‘Mantramugdha’ and he decides to stay. Shraddha, who arrives in college in a limousine, is the daughter of a millionaire Delhi businessman.

The list of students accepted by the college is put up and Arjun has qualified. This looks a bit strange since the college seems to be functioning in its full glory with students teeming all over the campus!

Forget English, Arjun now concentrates all his attention on Shraddha. He manages to draw her attention when she is not having a good time with her scoring on the basketball court by suggesting how to go about it. It works for her. But, there is nothing thereafter. She seems to have forgotten he existed while all of Arjun’s time around the college is spent stalking her. To guide him are three of his fellow Bihari friends in the hostel who may never have talked to a girl but know what Arjun should do next!

Friends advise Arjun ask Shraddha out on a movie date and only then will they believe she is not leading him on! That done, Arjun is told that the only way Bihar knows to make sure if a girl really loves a boy is to invite her over to have sex! 

Angry, Shraddha, walks out and decides it is better to sleep with a suitor her parents have chosen for her by marrying him than to sleep with the man she loves! 

There is no way to salvage the film hereafter.

Half Girlfriend has two major faults: casting and scripting. As for casting, the chemistry does not work between Arjun and Shraddha, Arjun and Seema or Arjun and his friends. As of the script, if there are 80 scenes in the film, they all seem to have their origins in some or other old film. It is a totally contrived script. The situations created of a pining lover Arjun fail to create empathy.  Direction is below par. Music has no takeaway value. Editing is lacking. 

There is not much to talk about performances. Arjun Kapoor lacks range and carries limited expressions. Shraddha Kapoor is okay. Seema Biswas’ is an ill-defined role. Same goes for Vikrant Massey. Rhea Chakraborty is good in a brief role.

Half Girlfriend has at some centres and average at others and not expected to sustain for long.

Producers: Ekta Kapoor, Shobha Kapoor, MohitSuri, ChetanBhagat. 

Director: MohitSuri.

Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Shradha Kapoor, Seema Biswas, Vikrant Massey, Rhea Chakraborty.

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