For a change, it’s the grandma who has championed the family business, cycling to this side of the border during the blood-drenched Partition. It’s she who is the Sardar (Neena Gupta), the 90-year-old ‘patriarch’ who’ll write her will the way she wants to. Obstinate and cantankerous, like Rishi Kapoor from Kapoor & Sons with a gender change, Sardar has a tongue that runs amok with abuse, ‘Suvar ka bachcha’ being a mild one, and she likes her imported tipple. There’s a cute line later on about the Lahore local giving her the kick she’s missed since the Partition. But of course, that’s not all she has missed.
Writer-director Kaashvie Nair (daughter of 80s’ director Shashilaal Nair) is like a confident chip off the old block as she creates the robust world of the Punjabi with grandson Amreek from Amrika landing in Amritsar for a hearty carnival. With a sprinkling of fun, the grandma-grandson tale that crosses the border into Lahore, tips its hat to Mr India and Sunny Deol’s Gadar in its dialogues and gives heart to the Partition that tore into Sardar’s dream life. As Amreek (Arjun Kapoor), the grandson who’s broken up with his fiancee remarks with tubelight understanding, the hurt he’s experienced for a few days was what Sardar had lived with for 70 years.
In its light moments, there’s general cheekiness like Amreek’s cousin Lovely attempting to score a goal with his high-end, ‘The future is Lovely’ campaign for their family business of Champion Cycles.
But it’s juxtaposed with a heartbreaking Partition track. Sample the one at the Wagah Border when Amreek, to fulfill his grandma’s cherished dream, crosses over to Lahore, the scene mingling with a young Sardar fleeing in the opposite direction into the safety of Amritsar.
There’s a bubbly feel in some of the dialogues like a young tea-seller in Lahore (Mir Mohammed Mehroos) telling off Amreek that chaiwalas in your country aren’t given due recognition.
But you do fleetingly wonder why the likeable chaiwala from Lahore goes out on a limb to help Amreek. At least builder Khan (Masood Akhtar) with his Khan Bakery connection to Amritsar can be understood for actively empathising with Amreek. But perhaps the chaiwala should be unquestioningly accepted as a symbol of the general bonhomie of the Lahori public that cheers Amreek. Especially when he pops up at the right moments, in the right spirit and brings the right spirits too, hic.
But there are inconsistencies in the characterisations. Amreek is introduced as a klutz in the bungling and stumbling with Radha (Rakul Preet Singh), his business partner who runs ‘Gently Gently’ with him in Los Angeles. But once the light-hearted introduction is done with, Amreek’s clumsiness vanishes. It’s the same with his easy crying which is referred to but soon forgotten. We understand that you can’t overdo or overuse the comic traits but their sudden disappearance is an inconsistency.
Amreek begins with his grandma’s lines about a meal being incomplete without pickle, like life without love. He quips that he understands the pickles part but is still to figure out the love bit. Strange since Radha, the love of his life, is right there beside him, wearing his ring. Surely there had to be a ring of emotion between them?
Before they break up, Radha flings at him something about his inability to face his family. You’d think there’s a serious issue out there but it’s all hunky-dory when his dad calls with nary a crease on the family front. So what was that dialogue about?
A video given to the Mayor of Lahore is conveniently left unedited; a major move by Amreek and Radha is pulled off like a student’s weekend project without the semblance of professional planning.
Like Amreek who was dropped from the dining table as a baby, often referred to in the film, maybe somebody in the writing department too got whacked mentally.
But it’s the heart being in the right place that ultimately wins you over. Whether it’s the grandson’s efforts to pull off a big one for his grandma, or Sardar’s heart that was broken and left behind in Lahore, or the Indo-Pak amity and aman, the emotions are all well-fitted.
Also Read: Movie Review: Radhe – Your Most Wanted Bhai
And the feeling of goodness persists even as a swipe is taken at petty ego battles on both sides of the border, and the resistance from the Mayor of Lahore (Kumud Mishra), who has history with Sardar, doesn’t really whip up bitter tension.
Arjun Kapoor is a good fit as a hatta-katta Punjabi munda and there’s an endearing changa munda quality in him that comes through. John Abraham and Aditi Rao Hydari in the pre-Partition flashback give poignancy to Sardar’s yearning for her house in Lahore.
Rakul Preet provides the mandatory dose of romance while being a flagbearer of the empowered woman of today. But it’s feisty Sardar Kaur from Lahore, well played by Neena, who’s the true gender champ of the story.