Film: Toh Baat Pakki!
Director: Kedar Shinde
Actors: Tabu, Sharman Joshi
On a movie screen after almost three years, Tabu here, plays an excitable mid-class housewife. Marrying off the younger sister is for her, each day’s primary concern. Her proud mother, in sheer gratitude, suggests, “You’re like a son to me.” To which Tabu’s Mrs Saxena shoots back, “I am a daughter. We take better care of parents. If only everyone realised this, half of India’s problems would be solved.”
You can tell Tabu (like the filmmaker) has one eye on the “rest of India”. The film is immediately aimed at viewers in the nation’s countrysides, lovers of old ‘family values-based’ Bollywood, and television’s primetime family soaps (less popular now). Very few films these days are built that way. This one’s a good sign then.
Mrs Saxena has a silver coin that she flips to make important decisions. One side points to Ganesh; the other, to Lakshmi. One brings good luck; the other, signifies prospects of wealth.
Between the two possibilities, Mrs Saxena constantly scouts around for suitors for her sister: hopefully a doctor, engineer, or an MBA grad, who comes with promise of a fat salary, and a “permanent job”. The boy usually moves in to Mrs Saxena’s house as paying-guest. So does an engineering student (Sharman Joshi). She plays matchmaker. Even a marriage date is fixed, before Mrs Saxena finds a better prospect for her sister, and the extra room is vacated for him (Vatsal Seth) instead.
This is quaint small-town India, where everyone refers to the other (especially women) in the honorific ‘ji’. Boys meet girls only to marry each other. They discuss hobbies and cooking skills. Love blooms after a relative's introduction.
If you’ve been watching reality TV shows (Dare To Date, Emotional Atyachar etc) that also map this part of young India, you may beg to differ on whether such an innocent world still exists. It could of course, in our films.
The set-up is sweet. The soundtrack is organised. The town Palanpur – cozy, quiet and well-planned -- is suitably fake; the atmospherics, complete.
The filmmakers just don’t know what to make of the plot. The first suitor takes on the second one by wrecking their marriage show. The girl, about to be married, sits at the corner, sucking her thumb. Two sets of kidnappers are thrown in to abduct either the groom or the bride. Aunties all across can’t stop jabbering. Your mind boggles. Nothing makes sense. The film carries on.
The hero should be happy. He gets quite a few random songs after another to show off his body against rich natural wonders. You just leave in a huff wondering, “Why Tabu, really!”