Director- Suresh Triveni
Starring- Vidya Balan, Manav Kaul and Neha Dhupia
Rating- 4 stars
Ah!!! Finally, finally there is a film that delves deep into the dilemma of a working woman, without making her die in guilt of neglecting her family and pursuing her dreams.
Abhimaan boiled my blood, where a wife is made to go in exile and sob her life into guilt for being more talented and famous than her husband. And that makes so much sense because hey, you are a wife, and your 'param dharam' is to massage your husband's useless egos, second only to pack him lunch-boxes and wash his stinking chaddis.
Sulu won't take it lying down. She is a confident woman. It's her confidence that makes her win all races in her society, that lands her a job at a radio station, that enables her to face her bullying sisters who constantly mock her at her decisions and control her life. Besides confidence, Sulu is a beautiful character rarely seen in films these days. Her zest for life, her stories, her persistence (sometimes pushy), her ambition, her anger, even her sexual bravado; everything about her is so well thought out to create an engaging, relatable character. She reminded me of so many of my radio listeners and neighbors in Delhi.
The first half of the movie gives great insights into her world; a loving, doting husband and son, disapproving relatives and a humble abode where chai cups are a routine and broken down TV and uncharged phones are real problems.
Even the humor is inbuilt, so in sync with the narrative of the film that it cajoles genuine hearty laughs. Ashok, Sulu's husband wonders how Dr. Batra knows about his receding hairline that he keeps getting texts from him. Or his retort to a customer care call when he is asked about his date of birth; 'cake katna hain kya', he innocently enquirers. Or Sulu's audition and her subsequent practice on a grocery store's owner are scenes that will have you in splits.
The film's strength is in its characters and performances. A receptionist who fiercely fights with a catering guy and instantly receives her guest with all smiles and politeness. The poet-producer who is always running late. The level headed boss, played brilliantly by Neha Dhupia, oh what a delight she is, is interestingly foiled with Ashok's nasty boss. You know he is Bong as he calls Ashok a 'nincompoop'. Ha!
Manav Kaul as Sulu's husband is on point as he lends just the right amount of insecurity and jealousy to an otherwise supporting husband who happily massages his wife's feet.
And last but not the least Sulu is engaging because of Vidya Balan's earnest performance. She lends such interesting traits to Sulu, the way she smiles, flirts, to a few words she mouths; bahut becomes bott. Sulu keeps it suggestive, naughty on air but desexualizes every joke that comes her way with her wit and presence of mind.
Let me end this on something I feel strongly about.
We live in a world where women with hormones and sexual drive is a myth. Because hey they are not human beings, they are water hyacinth, how can they ever express a libido, leave alone have one. Such women are lose and immoral.
Vidya Balan is such a refreshing change who comes up with a bold shadi ad for herself on Koffee with Karan- 'I am a Tam Bram who can make coconut chutney for you and lick it off your finger as well.' Her choice of films is equally intrepid.
She owns her curves in The Dirty Picture, breaks a rickety bed as she passionately makes out with her husband in Ghanchakkar and complains unabashedly for not getting intimate with her husband Ashok in Tumhari Sulu.
It's rare to see women like that in both real and reel life. And Vidya Balan does it smartly. She doesn't make it a sobbing/serious matter, instead uses humor to normalize and drive home the point that women are sexual beings too.
Watch Tumhari Sulu with this perspective and you will love it even more.
The pacing of the film in both halves is a huge problem, but that's a small hiccup in an otherwise light hearted film that leaves you with a happy, infectious 'hellllloooooo' ringing in your head for long!!!