Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Cast: Ali Fazal, Shraddha Srinath, Ashutosh Rana, Sikandar Kher
There is a moment in Milan Talkies when electricity goes off in the middle of Mughal-e-Azam. The film is playing in an Allahabad theatre — we are eight years away from Prayagaraj — called Milan Talkies and the audience is none too pleased about missing the electric face-off between Akbar and his lovelorn prince.
Ali Fazal’s wannabe director jumps in with gusto. Backlit by mobile phones screens, he mimics both Dilip Kumar and Prithviraj Kapoor and the audience applauds — both in the real-life theatre and the make-believe Milan Talkies.
Watch the Milan Talkies trailer here
The Tigmanshu Dhulia film’s a collection of such moments — mining into our love of movies and a love story well told. Ali Fazal and Shraddha Srinath’s story has its guardian angels – a Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol poster here, a Shammi Kapoor song there. With its film-within-a-film set-up – Ali Fazal is shooting his dream project in the bylanes of Allahabad with money borrowed from his mother and often supplemented by helping weak students cheat.
That is how he meets Shraddha, a BA fail who needs to be a graduate so that her father, Ashutosh Rana, can marry her to the educated boy of his choice. Love blossoms but this is Uttar Pradesh of anti-Romeo squads and caste lines etched in stone, here represented by a stone-faced Sikandar Kher. We see him early on in the film, castrating a boy for falling in love with a girl of other caste.
To Ali Fazal’s Annu, Mumbai is the city of his dreams – away from the patriarchal stronghold of Allahabad, where dreams do come true. And single-screen Milan Talkies stands for Bollywood in the film – Annu and Maithili romance in the flickering lights, kiss in front of posters and the projectionist Sanjay Mishra is their personal cupid.
Annu does finally reach Mumbai but after bloodshed and without the woman he loves. The tenuous relationship between him and Maithili is again films. Dhulia is in fine form – he plays Annu’s dad in the film besides writing and directing the film. As a man-child whose own Bollywood dreams came to naught, he is a delight. However, it is the way he captures the essence of small-town India, and especially Allahabad – he is from the city himself, that he truly wins. From the idiom to attitude, he gets the city pat-on.
He is ably supported by the cast – Ali Fazal, Shraddha, Ashutosh and Sanjay are particularly delightful. There are a few road bumps though – the film’s length and entirely forgettable music.
First Published: Mar 16, 2019 08:36 IST