Sir, which will be screened at the London Indian Film Festival, explores the age-old divide between the classes in India and questions if it can ever be bridged.
Ratna (Tillotama Shome), works as a maidservant for Ashwin (Vivek Gomber), the wealthy son of a builder and her boss.
They come from opposite sides of the world and perspective.
She is full of hope with nothing and he has lost his dreams while seeming to have everything in life.
Soon, an unlikely romance comes to fore as worlds collide and people connect.
Filme Shilmy reviews this Rohena Gera directorial.
A Balanced Empowerment
Initially, the plot seems like an extension of Zoya Akhtar’s segment in Lust Stories.
However, this is far more developed and relevant.
Whilst it seems to adapt the exterior a fairy tale, the movie is quite realistic in its essence and steers away from becoming a mushy and cliched love story.
Despite the main female lead is a widowed, servant character, it is refreshing to see how it is not all doom and gloom.
There is no overt pulling on the heartstrings regarding how much of a ‘dukhyari’ (grief-stricken) character she is.
In fact, there is a scene where she describes her situation to her boss, who is low after his marriage breaks up.
The way she fearlessly talks about how life continues even after being widowed at the age of 19, is quite a positive and progressive portrayal.
It is brilliant to see that the film does not fall for stereotypes in the sense that the man simply uses the servant for sexual means.
There is a strong human touch and she endeavours to use her experiences to help him.
As such, the empowerment is balanced here.
The male protagonist is not an overt hero and does not always make it a point of supporting the female lead.
Similarly, the female protagonist is not heavily reliant on the man. Thus, there is an equilibrium.
Also, it is so optimistic to see that Lakshmi Tai (another servant) encourages and guides Ratna in pursuing her passion.
Gera’s Filmmaking Prowess in Showing Class Disparity
Sir is a well-balanced portrayal as we also get a taster of the lower class people in Mumbai.
It is great to see Rohena Gera not glorifying the poverty aspect.
It is so comforting to see a film which does not depict the lower-class in a dark and morbid light.
For instance, a wide-shot of Ratna and Lakshmi Tai gossiping on a balcony with the landscape of the buildings in the background.
This highlights how their job is their small world in a big city full of opportunities.
Closeup shots of the driver looking in the rear view mirror cutting to a closeup on Ashwin… Showcasing the class disparity.
Sequences of the wealthy abusing the servants, or them being kicked-out of high-end shops reinforce the harsh realities in today’s day and age.
But unlike other films, Sir proves that realism does not necessarily amount to shock, gore, nudity and profanity.
Plus, it also proves that whilst living in a ruthless world, there is always the potential to fulfil a dream.
The fact that Ratna has to cook non-veg food despite being a vegetarian shows how hard the lesser well-off have to work in order to make a living.
A moving shot which shows Ashwin watching the news in one room and then transitioning into another where Ratna watches Indian serials exhibits the parallel worlds of both protagonists.
Cinematically, the film is a treat.
The poignant, feel-good quotients of the film are topped up by excellent performances.
Tillotama Shome captures the essence of a servant/maid well.
Whether it’s her body language or speaking style, she is consistent in every frame.
Despite playing a character who is illiterate and villager, it is inspiring to see that it does not fall into any conventions.
The fact that Ratna is aware of her environment, but yet is driven to pursue her passion, is the change we’ve been wanting from Hindi cinema.
Vivek Gomber is enamouring as Ashwin. His character is a modern-day prince charming but without the fancy suit and armour.
His character shows how easy it is for men to not be chauvinistic and narcissistic. All it takes is compassion and understanding.
Vivek and Tillotama are two supremely talented actors who deserve a lot more credit… They also share subtle and poignant chemistry with each other.
As the whole film is dependent on these two actors, the audience had to be compelled to empathise with the main characters… Which we do.
What Could be Improved?
Generally, the film exudes many strong/positive aspects.
However, the slow pacing may not be to people’s taste.
Despite being a heart-warming love story, the movie requires patience as it slowly develops.
Also, whilst Ratna speaks about her society, it would’ve been nice to have seen glimpses of her world.
In addition, it seems that her dream of pursuing her fashion designing course and the romance takes centre stage.
It could’ve been more effective to see how she continues honing that passion.
Overall, Sir is an uplifting, progressive and poignant watch.
Transcending above the fairy-tale premise, it is an optimistic yet realistic visual, which will leave you with a smile.
The Bagri Foundation London Film Festival celebrates a decade of bringing the best new South Asian films to the UK, with 5 cities, 25 venues and 25 specially curated films.
It starts on 20th June 2019 in London continues until 8th July 2019, at cinemas across the UK.
For more on the festival, please visit: http://londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/
Watch the festival trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNdLixFRPf0