Director: Sharat Katariya
Cast: Anushka Sharma, Varun Dhawan
Sui Dhaaga: Made In India is earnest, simplistic and not entirely convincing. Writer and director Sharat Katariya immerses us into a beautifully detailed world with flesh and blood characters but halfway through, he goes into Bollywood fairy tale mode. Some scenes made me teary and others made me tear my hair out in frustration.
Sharat is a gifted writer with an ability to find the magic in the mundane. His last film Dum Laga Ke Haisha was a sharply etched portrait of an extraordinary love story between two ordinary people. Sui Dhaaga immerses us into a similar space. The film begins with a lovely, long, continuous shot introduction to Mauji whose life motto ‘Sab badhiya hai‘ begins and ends the film. We see the morning rituals of his family – his quietly persevering wife Mamta and his warm, rotund mother putting together breakfast. His prickly, permanently disgruntled father washing clothes.
The nashta, paani and long commute to a dead-end job where Mauji is not just the errand boy, but also an entertainer who play-acts as a dog when the bosses need amusement. Egged on by Mamta, Mauji quits his demeaning job and becomes an entrepreneur going into the tailoring business that brought his grandfather to ruin. Mamta and Mauji must now struggle to stand on their own feet.
The film is persuasive as long as the narrative stays with the small victories. Mamta and Mauji toil relentlessly to get a sewing machine. Sharat skillfully builds the drama and the joy when they succeed is palpable. Varun Dhawan is wonderful as the jovial Mauji who hides his hurt and only wants to do right by everyone. His body seems too buff for the part but his sincerity and inherent likability make it work.
Anushka Sharma, grappling with an under-written character, is solid. And they are supported by Raghubir Yadav, brilliant as the father who weeps while watching daily soaps and Yamini Dass, who steals the show as Mauji’s mother. Their dialogue and interactions seem stolen from life – these are people we know. There is such an emotional intimacy in their scenes that we care about them instantly.
Sharat also deftly builds the love story between Mamta and Mauji – a couple that has barely spent any time together. Some of their early scenes have them speaking to each other through windows and grills – the barriers between them are literal. But slowly in their quest for dignity and self-reliance, their affection blossoms. It’s moving and delightful.
But post-interval, the narrative moves from nuance to broad strokes. A greedy businesswoman puts a spoke in the wheel. Suddenly, simple, uneducated karigars are designing clothes for a fashion show. The direction becomes heavy handed – just in case we don’t get the patriotic subtext, a line about Hindustani haat versus Chini machines is thrown in. It feels false and lazy.
But even as the circumstances become more implausible, the characters retain their grip. I had almost totally disconnected from the story but then a scene between Mauji and Babu ji pulled me right back in.
So Sui Dhaaga: Made In India is unsatisfying but also poignant. I think the best analogy might be Anu Malik’s song in the film – Chaav Laaga, which isn’t as soul stirring as Moh Moh Ke Dhaage from Dum Laga Ke Haisha – but it’s still worth listening to.