Director: Vikram Grover
Cast: Gurpreet Ghuggi, Karamjit Anmol, B.N. Sharma, Damanpreet Singh, Japji Khaira
Manjeet Singh (Gurpreet Ghuggi) is a single parent to two teenage children, son Jaiveer (Damanpreet Singh) and daughter Simran (Tania). Manjeet wants Jaiveer to excel at studies but he rather be a cricketer. That is the story in a nutshell. Given a choice, Manjeet wants his son to become an investment banker, a sure and safer choice to get better return on his investment. The remarkable aspect of the movie is the depiction of lower middle class existence. Manjeet sends his children to an expensive private school under the quota for the underprivileged, but goes to work on a scooter that could down break at any point. The world of and around Manjeet is authentic and relatable.
Manjeet is a well-rounded character. He is proud of his son’s selection in the national junior cricket team. He believes in his talent but not in the system and his distrust is not unfounded. He himself was a good cricketer but the class disparity played a major role in the selection process. Ghuggi does a brilliant job of bringing him to life. His role as Bulara in the 90s TV show Parchhanve cemented his position in the film industry, but it took Punjabi cinema two decades to carve a worthy role for Ghuggi again. BN Bagga (BN Sharma), who plays a moneylender with a soft side also gets an interesting character to play with.
There is another subplot to the story. Japji Khaira plays a dancer who lives in the same neighborhood. It seems like a ploy to sneak in an item number in the movie, and then to deliver a moral lecture to the audience. The movie could have done without it.
The movie’s issues with our education system are unbalanced and lack nuance. While the private schools and its teachers are demonized, the parents are shown as powerless victims of the school system. In one scene, Manjeet talks to the chief minister of Punjab and convinces him to reform the system rather easily.
Ghuggi played a devout husband and a pious human being in Ardaas two years ago. After that he ran unsuccessfully for the political office. The number of unnecessary lectures delivered by Ghuggi in the second half point to his own political aspirations. The first half of the movie is evocative but is undone by the second act which is lackadaisical and appears to be a political campaign for Ghuggi.
Damanpreet as the ambitious and clear-thinking Jaiveer also delivers a good performance. When a class teacher humiliates him in front of other students, he chooses studies over cricket for his father. Despite working hard, he is unable to keep up with studies and please his father. This all culminates in a heart-wrenching scene where the father and son end up in a scuffle. That said, all through the second half, I wondered why the movie says it’s about the son of Manjeet Singh, when it’s really about Manjeet Singh only.