In 2009, Sachin Kundalkar directed a movie titled Gandh (the Marathi word for smell) – a triptych of three short films exploring connections of the olfactory senses with the lives of everyday people. Kundalkar dedicated the film to two of his favourite directors – Wong Kar Wai (known for a genre of film that did not rely on a plot but more on the individual strengths of its many actors and actresses to narrate the story through their seemingly mundane day-to-day activities) and the Polish film-maker Kieslowski who directed Blue. Now why am I telling you all this? Because the first short film in the triptych, Lagnachya Vayachi Mulgi (meaning The Bride To-Be in Marathi), forms the core script and dialogues of Aiyya in 2012. And I saw the Marathi film after seeing the Hindi version.
But therein lies the difference. In 2009, Kundalkar’s version is a 34 minute endearing short film about a girl Veena (Amruta Subhash) who reluctantly dresses up for to-be husbands and serves them poha when not working as a typist at an art college. Her fellow-typist Anita Dave is a more sober version of her 2012 revamped role. She is the “I told you so” type who warns Veena that her ”scented attraction” Girish Kulkarni is an alcoholic. This does not deter Veena from falling in love and following her man in a series of events that alternate between dream and reality. And wraps up well.
The 2012 version – OTT wakda
In circa 2012, Kundalkar decided to up the ante and probably explore the Wong Kar Wai style to its fullest and go for a remake in Hindi titled Aiyyaa. So in the just-released Hindi film, Rani Mukherjee plays the role of Meenakshi, a Maharashtrian librarian who fantasises that she has replaced Sridevi and Madhuri in their famed songs from Tezaab and Mr India – minus the heros. When she is not working in a library with Mynah (Anita Date) – now playing a wakda version of a Lady Gagalike character who practices her Bollywood dance class steps on the library desk and sips vodka from an ugly red monkey plastic water bottle.
Everything is OTT about this movie – Meenakshi’s doddering father who repairs old phones, an endearing mother who extols her daughter’s chef-like qualities to each new suitor till she has to prop her own bored jaws while repeating the same lines, a school dropout brother whose raison d’être is to rescue stray dogs and a intuitively crazy blind grandmother in an electric wheelchair who has willed her golden teeth to Meenakshi. The crazy Mynah who confounds you in every scene, especially, the What to Do number. The endless list of prospective grooms. And then the smouldering Prithviraj Sukumaran who plays a Tamilian art student – seemingly impervious to the besotted Rani while he wanders around looking for inspiration in the college library or the local vegetable market.
The movie is wakda (Marathi for wacky). Two of the songs delight – the raunchy Dreamum Wakeuppam is a pure Tamil dhanchik number that will thrill every autodriver in India and the taporis at heart (moi included). Agga Bai has good choreography. Mahek Bhi is an understated soft number..
Plot ki avial-poha
But the rest of the movie drags endlessly and Kundalkar loses the plot many a time while trying to explain unnecessary details that get twisted into their own corners. The only character who appears normal is Madhav (Subodh Bhave) – he stays grounded whether pruning roses or clapping to Rani’s impromptu singing in Tamil.
Rani is great when it comes to comedy, especially, the scenes where she is learning Tamil or stealing Prithvi’s shirt. Or even when she trails him to a red-light area. The scenes involving the dustbin are really funny. Even the mystery behind the actual scent of her man that drives Rani crazy endlessly also teases the viewer. But she lacks conviction when she cries and looks uncomfortable when portraying a jaded version of her Babli of the ‘Bunty and Babli’ fame.
Prithvi simply sizzles on the screen when he does not talk. But when he does speak, one is left dumbstruck at the contradictory simplicity of his real life behind the smouldering artsy facade. Though it is a bit of an anticlimax to know that he had been aware of her obsession all along. But it is Anita Date who steals the show with her sauciness and her one-liners like feeling a “vada-pau type of hunger” or her Lijjat Pappad bunny inspired laugh.
Despite good performances from the entire cast, Aiyyaa as a movie misses the mark with its editing and plot. It forces the audience to feel exactly like the family members who fell asleep at Rani’s engagement – while waiting for her to turn up. In short, plot ki avial-poha.
Rating – 2 stars out of five