Hope and a Little Sugar
Cast: Anupam Kher (haw haw), Mahima Chaudhry (say “Cheese”), Amit Sial (T-shirts galore)
Direction: Tanuja Chandra
Take Kher, Anupam Kher. Burlier than a polar bear, he goes ho-ho-ha-ha-ha-haw-haw-hyuk-hyuk-hee-hee. Gee! Believe it or not, he rustles up those comic sound effects whenever he has to confront life’s sorrowful defects. Whatever happened to him? Kher sir is actually howlarious when he’s supposed to be tragic.
Indeed, Tanuja Chandra’s Hope and a Little Sugar, even assigns the otherwise fine actor a scream-your-lungs-out-scene that almost shatters your ear drums. Strict warning: If you do venture out to this Umeed aur Thodisi Chini (by the way, it comes with English dialogue), don’t forget to carry a pack of cotton buds for kaan safety. Hear hear.
Disturbingly, Sir Anupam isn’t the only who has a terrible time. Practically everyone looks life a refugee from Les Miserables. Among them, count a New York bicycling delivery boy (Amit Sial) who’s mistaken for someone called Sukhbir when he’s actually Ali Sidiqui. How and why that identity error happens remains a Miss Marple-type mystery. Oh dearie.
To cut a short story shorter, then, Ali is allowed to dine with and click pix of a jolly old retired nyuk-nyuk Colonel Kher (guess who?). For company, they have the colonel’s son (Vikram Chatwal, shockingly amateurish), and a smile-till-it-hurts daughter-in-law (Mahima Chaudhry). No surprise gifts for guessing that the Delivery Boy falls nuttily in love with Smiles Unlimited. Tsk.
To fill up the frame with more people, the script also creates Lady Colonel Suhasini Mulay (she also has a solo screaming scene). And there’s a certain Mr Ghosh (Ranjit Chowdhry trying not to laugh) and his daughter (Thin Kumari), both of whom also merely dig into a cooked-by-the-colonel Tandoori Mango Ginger Masala Chicken dinner. Yummy? Not really.
Because before the Zaffrani Kheer is served, you can predict devastation. The 9/11 tragedy hits New York. Meanwhile, delivery boy has these flashbacks to communal riots in Mumbai, shot in blue tints. To be sure, director Chandra has heart in her right place but the theme’s sub-text is missing. Throughout, the story and screenplay lack punch and plausibility. The finale -- a face-off between the colonel and the Muslim boy – is at most, like a car without fuel. Static.
If you’re wondering what the title Hope and a Little Sugart alludes to, it’s to a mithai shop run by Mahima Chaudhry, in the movie that is. She shows off a laddoo, calls it magique, often breaks into French words like charmant, prompting you to scratch your head.
What made you come to this Chini Zyaada anyway? The ticket money could have been more satisfyingly spent on laddoos – sugar free. To end with a quote from the super-overacting Colonel Kher, then, “Haw haw hyuk huyk.”