The excellent premise of Sirf - the idea that, as the Zutons say, everyone's got problems, everyone's got stress - is unfortunately quickly ruined by behavior so unrealistic we wondered if these people even CAME FROM THIS PLANET.
But, alas, what little fun we had reinterpreting Sirf as a sci-fi odyssey didn't compensate for the spork-inducing ridiculousness of this movie. This is a damn shame. The set-up is fantastic: welcome to big, bad Mumbai! And meet four couples, each facing their own believable problems and each comprising two vulnerable, imperfect individuals. First, there's the puppy love couple (Ankur Khanna and Nauheed Cyrusi), anxious to get married and set up their perfect home. Next, there's the working class couple (Ranvir Shorey and Sonali Kulkarni) with the seriously ill daughter, trying (and generally failing) to juggle hectic work schedules with quality home time. After them, the newlyweds (Parvin Dabas and Rituparna Sengupta) encountering city-versus-country cultural tensions (she copes about as well as cheese copes with vanilla ice cream). And finally, the wealthy, middle-aged couple (Manisha Koirala and Kay Kay Menon) who flirt with adultery, workaholism and suspicions.
Parvin Dabas, Manisha Koirala and Rituparna Sengupta.
The cute Ankur Khanna.
Basically, the plot's originality and initial appeal (for us) was in the first two couples: the experience of the young couple who just gets excited shopping at Ikea together is rarely seen in film, and it was engaging and cute. The husband-wife dynamic between the working class couple was also well-done and believable. Once we got into the two more cliché couples - the culture clash couple and the middle-aged bored couple - things took a telenovela turn, complete with melodramatic lines such as: "He was out eating paani puri with that witch!" Ay Dios mio! Es todo muy ridicolo.
The similarities between this and other "humanity quilt" films is notable. As with the other films in this genre, we follow a large number of seemingly only tangentially-related couples through their personal turmoils which become more and more entangled. If you'll allow us to be glib, Sirf's role in this long, illustrious line of quilts can be summarized as follows:
- Love, Actually (2003): love is all around!
- Salaam-e-ishq (2007): pyaar everywhere hai!
- Life... in a Metro (2007): but this is not necessarily a good thing because love hurts...
- Sirf (2008): ...and don't bother envying that couple over there, since their relationship is probably crappier than yours.
An interesting idea! Indeed, the four stories are linked by one character admiring the next couple and literally thinking, "God, I wish I was like them..." We then get to follow that envied character to their own very imperfect home life. It seems everyone's pretty far from domestic Elysium!
Is Kay Kay Menon crying because he lost his mobile?
Ranvir Shorey trying - TRYING - to make sense of his climactic scene.
Some minor spoilers...
Yet what ruins this film is the outrageous behaviors and a script which strains credulity. For example, when the film wants to show us the culture shock the naive country wife gets when she attends her new husband's birthday party, it does this by having the husband's birthday cake shaped like a pair of breasts. All the "city people" laugh and jest about this but the PPCC couldn't help but think: Who ARE these people!? Does anyone actually buy boob cakes? Even jokingly? What is he turning, twelve?! Or what about the parents who talk with their doctor about their eight-year-old daughter's chances of surviving a risky surgery... in front of the daughter. (?!!) And that same doctor who, when tragedy strikes, goes, "Well, I told you so!" WTF?!
And then - icing on the
- Wife suspects husband of cheating and is generally tired of husband's workaholic nature.
- Husband is, when present, attentive, sensitive and upbeat.
- One day, during a work meeting, husband is told that wife is pregnant. He flips out with joy! He buys a million toys! When wife comes home, husband has buried himself in a pile of stuffed animals and declares that, paraphrasing, "This half of the room is for me junior, that side of the room is for you junior."
- Wife declares she has had an abortion.
- A distraught husband expresses concern: "Were there complications?! Are you okay?!"
- No, wife says. No complications. She just didn't want to bring a being in the world with such an absent, workaholic father.
It's a good thing the PPCC was sitting down for that one, otherwise we would have had a Ranvir Shorey-esque collapse of pure SHOCK.
Which segues nicely into the performances, which were uniformly strong. At least, all these talented actors - Manisha, Kay Kay, Ranvir - were clearly trying very hard with the material they had. Kay Kay Menon's elation and despair in the scene we described above was well-done, as were moments when we saw Manisha's weary hurt at being ignored. We look forward to seeing more from the young 'uns, Ankur Khanna and Nauheed Cyrusi. If we had been more invested in Ranvir's storyline, we probably would have cried in the end, rather than just admiring his technical ability in a cold, hard shell-of-a-PPCC way. The most uneven couple were Parvin Dabas and Rituparna Sengupta. Their story, which began earnestly, slowly devolved into straight dramedy TV serial-style acting: Rituparna Sengupta seemed to morph into someone fresh off the saas-bahu drama set, while Parvin Dabas became the bumbling, put-upon husband. ¿Por qué, filmmaker, por quééééééé? (Side note but Parvin Dabas, who we last saw in Monsoon Wedding, was a revelation: that man was like a cross between Abhishek Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor. Beth, get thee to his movies! ¡Andalé!)
Alas, we can't really recommend this one. The best part about this film was the complementary can of ice-cold Coca Cola that the DVDwallah gave us when we cleared his Ranvir Shorey stock.
Edited a few hours later, after baking a chocolate cake: Forgot something! A pleasant surprise in this film was the occasional use of Western classical which featured, in particular, our two favorites: Philip Glass (!!!) and pieces from Yann Tiersen's soundtrack for Amélie (including possibly