Well as it turns out this Friday, it looks like an incredibly dull weekend in Bollywood. Unless a Pakistani B-grade film Salankhein starring Meera at a theatre nearby is your idea of hot and happening.
Tanuja Chandra's Hope And A Little Sugar is definitely not hot as well. Neither in a saucy nor in a serious sort of way.
The story concerns a young Muslim boy Ali from India. He randomly meets another Indian girl at a store, that's Mahima Chaudhary. He thinks she is beautiful. She mistakenly thinks he is an old family-friend, a Sikh boy, who's removed his turban and cut his beard. Which of course is not true.
What looks more untrue is how just over a couple of scenes, this stranger gets incredibly close to the girl and her in-law's family. Even after he's revealed his real identity or that he'd lied before.
The girl's husband, a dopey-eyed Vikram Chatwal, dies right after in the World Trade Centre attack. The family is shattered, and you can see it.
Especially, in a fairly competent performance by Anupam Kher, the father, a retired Sardar colonel. But more importantly you can sense grief in the eyes of the mother, the brilliant Suhasini Mulay. She appears very briefly but is most effective.
Unfortunately this movie is not exactly from their point of view. The protagonist really is that Ali character. And I found him to be a bit dodgy from the word go.
He's been obsessing over a married woman since he saw her. He's been sticking her pictures all over his room. When her husband dies, I am not sure if his increasing interest in the poor girl is out of genuine concern, or just a way to take advantage out of this situation. Really he seems a bit of a rogue element to me.
And this is because we know nothing about him, besides that he'd witnessed the 1992 Bombay riots as a child. When you're not there with the lead character, you're unlikely to be there with the film.
So the script, as I said, is entirely flawed. The movie's dull camerawork is nothing to write home about. And the editing, basically is a series of fade-ins and fade-outs.
The independent genre, like the mainstream movies, sometimes also works on formulas. This is when the premise is thought of before the picture itself. In this case the 9/11 blasts. Or when the subject is thought of much before the screenplay.
Here, the issue of religious and racial discrimination. The methodology is no different from commercial movies where a film is essentially an excuse to put together a few songs and star-actors. Ideally when you have nothing new to say, you should say nothing.
This Hope doesn't have a compelling storyline. Or if there was one it's been hurried through to a point that you would care very little about anyone or their loss.
What you're left with then are cliched scenes of a happy family that eats and parties together. Or a candy story where the lead girl flirts with philosophy.
She says, "There is nothing in the world that can't be taken care of with Hope And a Little Sugar." Of course.
Having said that, and since we're talking cliches, I must mention, this is one of the rare films set in New York that doesn't resort to passe shots of the city's skyline. Also, a film that's only about 90 minutes long; another lovely rarity I'd think.
Even by Bollywood standards of screechy melodramas, Tanuja Chandra's last film, the ham-festival Zindaggi Rocks was a new low. As a director, this one is definitely a minor redemption for her. Though in all fairness, that's really not saying much.