I was looking forward to watching Madhuri Dixit’s Marathi debut. She is after all, a Maharashtrian and it is a shame that she had to wait until the roles dried up in Bollywood to move to a film made in her mother tongue. Bucket List seemed like a good opportunity to make up for lost time. Sadly this well-intended but fractured excessively sweetened film about a housewife living out a list of daring (daring, by her conservative standards) fantasies is a bit of a let-down. For one, Bucket List seems more about the actress Madhuri’s than her character Madhura’s bucket list.
Outdoing Sridevi was always a secret yearning that Madhuri nursed. In their heydays Sridevi was no.1, whereas Madhuri was always no 2, and she forever dreamt of reaching the first spot. Well, ladies and gentlemen, here you have it. Madhuri Dixit doing what Sridevi did in English Vinglish. In both, the female hero plays a Marathi housewife who at some point decides she wants to explore experiences outside marriage, children and home. In both the husband is a shadowy figure played with confident persuasion by actors who know how to flesh out their sketchily written roles. Adil Hussain and Sumeet Raghavan are interchangeable in English Vinglish and Bucket List .And they are both equally replaceable with Vinod Mehra if this film had been made in the 1970s which it easily could have been.
The focus is on Madhuri Dixit as she tucks the pallu of her saree into her still-slim waist and takes off on what she considers to be daring adventures. Both Madhuri/Madhura and the film’s benign-hearted writer-director seem to be inflicted by the yearning to keep the proceedings sweet and dignified to the point of being disarmingly dull. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where Madhuri ends and Madhura begins. And I don’t mean that in a complimentary way. For example the bucket-list, borrowed from her dead heart donor’s subconscious, mentions the dead girl Sai’s desire to wear a bikini on a beach. That wish remains unfulfilled to the end. I am not sure who refused to wear the bikini. Madhura or Madhuri.
Madhura’s adventures seem embarrassingly tame .They echo what Raima Sen tried 11 years ago in Reema Kagti’s Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd. As the ever-beaming Madhura, Madhuri occupies almost every frame. Though he ticks off all the boxes in the “Sallu Ki Wishlist” roster of a working class housewife’s need to fly, she does nothing here that she hasn’t done before. Madhuri is still a delight to watch. But we didn’t need this film to prove it.
Bucket List seems to have been conceived only to flatter its leading lady. In the process talented actors like Renuka Shahane, Shubha Khote, Dilip Prabhalkar and Sumedh Mudgalkar (giving a heartfelt performance as the heart donor’s twin brother) barely get a chance to come out of the shadows. When they do, we get an inkling of what this film could have been if it had its heart in the right place. Or maybe too much heart and very little mind is the problem.
If you want to see a solidly performed powerfully written film on a middleclass housewife’s middle aged rebellion try Tabu in Mahesh Manjrekar’s Astitva or Smita Patil in Jabbar Patel’s Subah.
Or better still watch English Vinglish again.