Cast: Rekha, Sharman Joshi, Randhir Kapoor
Director: Indra Kumar
Bad movies rarely startle Hindi film critics. Our job requires us to sit through some staggeringly awful cinema. I've watched Mallika Sherawat turn into a snake in Hisss and India's hilarious answer to Brokeback Mountain – Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyun… I thought I had seen it all. Until I saw director Indra Kumar's ode to women empowerment – Super Nani.
Super Nani stars Rekha as Bharti Bhatia, a painfully pious, wholly self-effacing mother and wife. Bharti is the doormat to beat all doormats. She worships her obnoxious husband, loves her rude daughter-in-law, will fast on behalf of her selfish son and is full of concern for her unmarried daughter. Bharti is such a maternal goddess that she even reduces goons to tears by feeding them ghar ka khana.
Of course her family takes all of this for granted and treats her like dirt. Her husband calls her 'a bloody zero,' and tells her 'tumhara kaam hai kitchen sambhalna.' Her screechy daughter-in-law refuses to help with the housework and insists on personal space. But the masterstroke is her daughter, who wants – horror of horrors – a live-in relationship with a married man who has children.
Who can save Bharti from this hell? Her NRI grandson Mann, played by Sharman Joshi. And how does he rescue her? By giving her a makeover and turning her into a super-model. Yes ladies, you heard that right – the answer to all your problems is a new hair-do and copious amounts of eyeshadow. Before you know it, Bharti is selling soap and washing powder, going on international assignments and winning 'Woman of Substance' awards. Mann insists that she become, and I quote here, 'Mother Mary se Ma Durga.' Eventually each member of this hellish family realizes his or her mistake. Even the wayward daughter understands that a live-in relationship is the 'ghalat raasta.'
I cannot tell you how Nani and Mann bring about this change of heart – you have to see it to believe it.
Super Nani is based on the Gujarati play Baa Ae Maari Boundary. I don't know how much writer Vipul Mehta has deviated from the original source but the film is painfully dated. Under the wafer-thin garb of women empowerment, Super Nani is offensively regressive. That is, if you can stop laughing long enough to take offense.
The ludicrous script forces fine actors like Anupam Kher and Sharman Joshi to behave like over-animated jokers. Poor Randhir Kapoor has the thankless job of playing Bharti's CEO husband who is constantly barking at her to get back into the kitchen. And at the centre is Rekha – with a face still creaseless and beauteous. She's been acting for over forty years and is still compelling to watch. But here she is either weeping or posturing in ornate jewelry and costumes. There is little sign of the actor who beguiled generations of viewers.
Super Nani is a special kind of awful.