Starring Irrfan Khan, Radhika Madan, Deepak Dobriyal, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Dimple Kapadia
Directed by Homi Adajania
Rating: **** ½ (4 and a half)
In spite of a fractured prelude in mofussil Rajasthan which, like a herd of sheep in a grazing stretch, meanders all over, Angrezi Medium is a very strong relationship drama, anchored by a powerful performance by Irrfan. Though his illness has visibly ravaged him, he remains a force to reckon with.
Irrfan’s Champak Bansal (no relation to his Raj Batra in Hindi Medium) is a proud Rajasthani rustic mithaiwala who lives and breathes for his motherless daughter. He oils and combs her hair and monitors her moves with the single-mindedness of a human drone, and doesn’t mind being labelled an ‘over-possessive’ and a ‘paranoid’ parent. These labels don’t count for Champak. He wouldn’t even know what they mean. All he knows is how to be a father. The rest can go fly a kite.
Hence when the daughter Tarika (ably played by Radhika Madan, though why she speaks her lines as though she has painful ulcers in her mouth, is a mystery) breaks Champak’s heart, I could hear the crash all the way from London to Rajasthan. Yup, Irrfan lives every moment of his agony and ecstasy as a single father determined to get that prestigious seat in a British college for his social-climbing daughter who is a slightly annoying mix of the daft and the mouldable.
When Tarika turns around and tells her father she never asked him to do all that he did for her, I felt really sorry for all of us parents who invest everything into our children.
The moral lessons are not served up as placard displays in Angrezi Medium. And that’s what keeps the narrative from wandering away too far from the crux. Wandering, it does a lot of. There is an especially kinky passage out of India where after being deported from London airport, Irrfan and his screen-brother Deepak Dobriyal (marvellously in mood, as usual) fly to Dubai to get illegal entry into the UK via a cheesy somewhat camp agent played with a lip-smacking soft-wristed gusto by Pankaj Tripathi who slips in penile jokes like rum into your Christmas pudding.
The London passage post-madhyaantar is articulate and sharp except for the fact that Champak’s daughter is shown being “corrupted” by Western influences. There is a warm cute relationship that grows between Tarika and a self-employed Indian student Advait (Manish Gandhi). But soon she’s making out with a British boy, as papa Champak barges in.
Despite some wild leaps of plot propulsion Angrezi Medium holds together beautifully. The tender moments between Irrfan and his daughter and between Irrfan and his brother are rendered with sincerity and warmth. What intrigued me the most was the mother-daughter subplot in the second London half. In one fabulously enacted sequence, we see how angry mom Dimple Kapadia and daughter Kareena Kapoor are with one another. I wanted to know more about the background of these two gorgeous women.
Perhaps more about the Dimple-Kareena pair in the third part of the Franchise? Meanwhile Angrezi Medium serves up a succulent dish of droll and drama, sometimes both in the same frame. Cinematographer Anil Mehta succeeds in merging the rusticity of Rajasthan with the melancholic metropolitanism of London. Director Homi Adajania uses the patang theory of direction on his fine actors. Gives them enough leeway to let them fly off their volition. Not quite as high as we expected. But still, Angrezi Medium is a thing of beauty and a joy for two and a half hours. One extra star in the rating only for Irrfan’s comeback.