A charming central act by Vidya Balan gives Tumhari Sulu several heart-warming moments. But even as the film makes some astute observations on dreams and desires of the glorified Indian housewife and mother, a heavy-handed second half falls prey to typical clichés, while its 140-minute running time has the film finally falling well short of being there.
No doubt, Tumhari Sulu had much potential. A premise built around a middle-class housewife, Sulochana aka Sulu (Balan), stuck in domesticity and wanting silently to break free and establish her own identity is something a lot of people, especially women, are bound to identify with. In that sense, director Suresh Triveni had a solid premise and a well-fleshed out character to start off with. And to his credit, he sets up the film quite winningly as we are introduced to Sulochana’s world in far-flung Virar – one that revolved around her husband, Ashok (Manav Kaul), a sales manager in a garment firm, an 11 year old son, Pranav (Abhishek Sharrma) who is in school just discovering sexuality, and her family of an unsupportive father and elder twin sisters, both bank officers who live by what is expected of them in society and constantly berate her for thinking out of the box. The first part runs breezily enough even if rather simplistic and much, much too convenient, especially how easily Sulu gets the job through which she discovers herself – a Savita Bhabhi radio prototype of a middle-aged sari-clad housewife who hosts a sexxxy late night show. Triveni captures the small details, slices of suburban middle-class life and oddball moments in the radio station nicely, while keeping the narrative moving with a deft and light touch.
It is in the post interval (yes, that curse again) that the film falters. As events get serious and complication arise due to Sulu’s job, the film gets into familiar Abhimaan-like territory, droning on before culminating rather hurriedly and unsatisfactorily. The track with Ashok’s new boss and his job going downhill along with the change in dynamics between him and Sulu are clumsily executed as are the issues between Sulu and her family, who find her job demeaning to say the least. Also, the film plays rather safe with Sulu’s show as if afraid of the censors’ scissors – a valid point in today’s intolerant times, though. Consequently, though there is much crammed into the film to explore, Tumhari Sulu is unable to get much depth or a strong, perceptive viewpoint of what it might want to say or where it desires to go.
Still, the performances help. At the center of it all, carrying the film on her not-so-slender shoulders is Vidya Balan. She is simply superb capturing every shade and mood of her character perfectly. She has you hooked right from the beginning, gets your empathy and has you rooting for her right through. Manav Kaul enjoys easy camaderie with Balan and plays the foil to her well enough but is handicapped by a sketchy role, particularly once the conflict kicks in. Though the supporting cast are also sans flesh and blood, Neha Dhupia and Vijay Maurya leave their mark, while the actors comprising Balan’s sisters (Sindhu Shekharan, Seema Taneja), brother-in-laws and her father (Uday Lagoo), though well-cast, are unable to rise above their uni-dimensional roles.
Adequate technicalities, a disappointing musical score barring the catchy Ban Ja Rani song, all in all, Tumhari Sulu scores all its brownie points courtesy Vidya Balan. Take her out and there is really nothing much else for the film to stand on. A pity because Triveni truly had something substantial going on here to build upon.
Hindi, Drama, Colour