Based on his own play, On a Muggy Night in Mumbai, playwright Mahesh Dattani's maiden film as director achieves another significant first. Mango Souffle is the first ever Indian film that addresses, without pulling punches, the predicament of the gay community in a society where social pressures inevitably triumph over individual needs.
Mango Souffle is a commendably controlled film that knows where to draw the line: that perhaps explains why it has had virtually no trouble with the censors. The plot revolves around just a handful of characters seeking affection and acceptance in a big, bad city only to realise that there is a price to be paid for every little ounce of emotional succour.
Kamlesh (Ankur Vikal) is a designer whose life is in a mess and he has made up his mind to leave India. But he still is a source of strength for his sister Kiran, who is engaged to Ed (Atul Kulkarni). Ed, on his part, owes a debt to Kamlesh. Kiran is unaware of the connection between the two men and it is the process of painful reconciliation that she must go through that forms the crux of the film.
Mango Souffle has a gallery of several other interesting characters that serve to underscore the gulf that exists between the freedom of choice and the artificial sexual norms that metropolitan existence imposes upon individuals. Trouble is, not all of them come across as fully etched figures.
That, to an extent,, is what is wrong with Mango Souffle. Despite its fine production values and remarkable production design, it rarely provides a cinematic experience. It plays out more like a production meant for the stage, an attribute that is accentuated by some of the actors. Their performances tend to border on the theatrical.
The trio of Kulkarni, Vikal and Khanna, however, handle the principal roles with a great degree of panache. Thanks primarily to their skilfully modulated performances, Mango Souffle remains a palatable show for the most part.