Moonlight and Mangola

Debut director Bela Bhansali Sehgal has a fond gaze on the Parsi community in Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi. She celebrates the prototype—the whimsical, emotional and eccentric Parsi. She does not have the intimate sympathy of Sooni Taraporevala, who wrote and directed the beautiful Little Zizou (2008), which is not a shortcoming or a disadvantage if the writer uses the predictable quirks to further an engaging narrative.

Unreserved: Farah Khan essays the role of Shirin unconvincingly. This is her first role in films.

Farhad Pastakiya (Boman Irani) is a 45-year-old salesman at the Tem Tem lingerie store. His mother (Daisy Irani) and grandmother (Shammi) put him through embarrassing situations in their search for a bride for him. One day, at the store, he meets Shirin Fugawala (Farah Khan), a woman who has gone there to purchase a “white 38D" size bra. Farhad takes to her instantly and hard sells the variety of bras his store has. Shirin is bemused, and the romance blooms. Because of a mistaken identity, impediments emerge in their love story, created mostly by Farhad’s overbearing mother.

Shirin is an endearingly brazen character, and Farhad, a shy and bumbling romantic. “First love, Shirin. Last love, Shirin," Farhad proclaims. There are many such Archies card lines and candy-sweet moments. The plot is linear, without any surprises, and the characters are one-dimensional. So the job of making something out of this film is on the actors.

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Khan is not an actor, and she delivers a choppy if unreserved performance. The difference between an actor and someone who is not is often this: The actor knows that realism can’t be created in front of the camera by being the way one is in real life. Being the girl next door requires dramatic talent; a good actor does this without the effort showing. Khan takes to her role with zest, and her contribution to the film is the chutzpah. Her dialogue delivery, expressions and pitches are all awry. Boman Irani, always dependable, especially as a Parsi man, is effortless in most scenes, although he has some moments of hammy histrionics. The couple does not share much romantic chemistry, with both Irani and Khan seeming like they are in a school play, having fun.

Other actors like Daisy Irani and Kurush Deboo keep the dramatic pitch high, in contrast to the flat lines they have to deliver.

The music is mismatched, and the songs are picturized just the way commercial Bollywood film songs would be. Bhansali Sehgal’s treatment, coming from a very mainstream language, is starkly at odds with the story’s milieu—incidentally obsessed with raspberry drinks and Mangola—and scale.

Shirin Farhad... is an awkward film, interspersed with some heartwarming scenes.

Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi, Finding Nemo 3D, Delhi in a Day and From Sydney With Love released in theatres on Friday.

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The three other releases this week

Finding Nemo 3D

Out of the blue: Finding Nemo has been a hit worldwide.

Delhi in a Day

A British traveller discovers India in odd ways when his money disappears while staying with an upper middle-class Delhi family. All the family’s domestic help are summoned. Confusion leads to humorous situations and hypocrisies emerge. Starring Lee Williams, Lillete Dubey, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Victor Banerjee, and directed by Prashant Nair, ‘Delhi in a Day’ is staple “discovery of India" fare.

From Sydney With Love

A campus romance involving an enthusiastic, small-town Bengali girl, Meghaa Bannerjee, and her new friend in Sydney, Prateek Chakravorty’s film ‘From Sydney With Love’ takes the standard route to a resolution: Will the different worlds of the boy and the girl meet? With debut actors Sharad Malhotra, Bidita Bag (who plays Meghaa), Karan Sagoo and Evelyn Sharma, it is an Indo-Aussie romcom.

sanjukta.s@livemint.com

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