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Heart-warming

There are films that make you smile. There are films that make you laugh. And then there are films that make you feel good about yourself. Do Dooni Chaar has that quality which is almost rare in today’s calculated and calculative Bollywood cinema. Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films used to glow with that purity. Director Habib Faisal brings back that full-bodied goodness and tops it with Dibakar Banerjee’s characteristic Delhiwala tadka. The result? An irresistible trip to the movies.

Light-years away from meticulously sculpted bodies wrapped in designer clothes driving around foreign locales in luxury sedans, the world of Do Dooni Chaar is the Duggal’s dingy DDA flat in Delhi. The father (Rishi Kapoor) is a forthright mathematics teacher, the mother (Neetu Singh) a contented housewife, the daughter (Aditi Vasudev) an inflammable college student and the son (Archit Krishna) a resourceful school kid.

In a family where every demand is met with a red file (Bheja Fry nod?) of carefully clipped salary slips and income-tax receipts, and an innocuous wedding invitation means that dinner is reduced from chicken to tinda and pindi, the GeNext is on fire. So while Payal roams around in her classmate’s car and applies for a call centre job, Deepu gets involved in a betting scam and keeps stashing cash inside an aquarium bowl.

Duggal Express only comes to a screeching halt (literally) when middle-class pride is hurt. When the mohalla mocks him for damaging the car he hired from his neighbour, Santosh vows to get his own four-wheeler within 15 days. Even if that means buying dozens of cartons of a washing powder which offers a car as a lucky-draw prize. Even if that means confronting a gunda halwai who is ready to pay a fee to get his grandson to pass the math exam.

The magic of Do Dooni Chaar lies in the detail and the beautiful moments — mostly featuring Rishi Kapoor — it manages to create within familiar setpieces. The scene where the son, after his betting scam has been caught, asks the father: “Daddy aapne mujhe ek baar bhi nahin daanta?” The father simply smiles and narrates the story of the kid’s childhood... how he finally stopped putting fingers in his mouth on his own. Or the scene where a former student of his comes and takes him down a glorious memory lane even as he contemplates taking a bribe from a current student for the car’s first down payment. A lump in the throat is guaranteed, the pleasure lies in the aftertaste.

It is the irritating voiceover which the film could have done without. The writing (Faisal and Rahil Qazi) otherwise is top-notch and the dialogues have the sharpness to surprise.

But it is the performances that make it do dooni chaar. The two newcomers, Aditi and Archit, are complete naturals. And what does one say about the two vets? She is back after 27 years but 27 seconds into the film, and it’s as if Neetu Singh had gone nowhere. The smile still lights up the screen, the eyes still talk and there’s still that hint of bossiness in her dialogue delivery. Pure nostalgia!

Rishi Kapoor, on the other hand, has wowed us film after film all these years but here, back with his lovely wife, he is in sublime form. Walking the line between parody and realism, Kapoor manages to turn the film into a comedy and a tragedy at the same time. You laugh at his antics but feel his pain. Together, the Rishi-Neetu pair is a picture of serenity. How one wished Ranbir’s parents could break into Humne tumko dekha... even for a couple of seconds.

Planman Motion Pictures doesn’t produce a film every Friday. But when the filmography reads Dosar, Mithya, The Last Lear and now Do Dooni Chaar, it’s evident that the time has been well spent. And unlike Sony and Warner Bros who wanted to cash in on Bollywood shining and fell flat on their face, Disney’s (presenters of the film) made a smart and assured start, saat samundar paar.

As for you, you can choose this weekend to brush up on the mathematics tables. Two ones = two, two twos = :-)

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