Film:Tum Milo Toh Sahi
Director: Kabir Sadanand
Actors: Nana Patekar, Dimple Kapadia
The word ham – hamster, hammy -- is a pet one of Indian film reviewers. Most audiences can’t tell a ham from a burger. But I have a suggestion for you to figure when an actor’s hamming it up on screen. Observe them closely. They emote – twitch their foreheads, roll their eyeballs, uncomfortably move their hands around, scream for attention – even when lurking in the shadow. The big screen magnifies their self-awareness. Each time, they react. They don’t respond.
This film is full of such. Even a li’l kid here (and kids usually turn in more natural performances) hams it up all the way. He fakes an Aussie twang in Hindi and goes, “Kyaa kartaa haai; Maeen sorry boltaa” -- reminds you of the famous Aussie ham-God Bob Christo from back in the day! Sunil Shetty of course is the most successful film exponent of the fine art of hamming himself.
He plays CEO of a coffee shop chain, who wants to raid on an old Irani café in prime real estate. The place is popular with collegians and office crowd. An old Parsee lady (Dimple Kapadia) owns the shop. A college kid, kicked out of his hostel, frequents this place. So does the friend who had him kicked out. As does his love-interest. As do the CEO’s kid and wife. So does that hammy kid, the owner’s grandson…
There’re so many characters, with their own lengthy back-stories; your head spins. A cup of coffee may be calming. The cafe itself is at once a sweet setting for a few, conveniently inserted item songs as well.
If you look beyond the fringe, which is most of the film, the premise, made hash of, is quite pertinent after all. It questions the serious Indian disregard for preserving contemporary heritage. While replicated chains and malls mutate over Indian streets, it isn’t quite clear what we’d make of the tiny corner-shops and places unique to a city’s character that we’re losing in the process. The delicacy of the subject is certainly there on the screenplay. You can’t sense it on the screen.
The Parsee joint here could well be Café Samovar, currently under threat, at Mumbai’s Jehangir Art Gallery. This is where Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan met often. It’s also where Amol Palekar met Vidya Sinha over Chicken Alapoos (Basu Chatterjee’s Chhoti Si Baat, 1975). Such loss is of history alone.
Times they truly ‘re a changin! As you can tell: Dimple, once a siren, is a Parsee aunty now. Shetty, once the Rambo, is the unintentionally fumbling corporate suit. Nana Patekar though, who tries hard to play a role initially – an old Tamilian Brahmin – eventually goes back to being Nana all over again. As always. His, I presume, is the only ham that still works!