‘For Real’ tells the story of a 6-year-old girl Shruti (Zoya Hassan) who begins to believe that her real mother has gone away, and has been replaced by an alien. The opening sequence at the Delhi railway station establishes the child’s point of view firmly, creating an anticipation of horrors to come. As the film progresses, it is obvious that this is Shruti’s way of dealing with the sadness in her mother’s eyes, and the discord between her parents Priya (Sarita Choudhury) and Ravi (Adil Hussain). Her older brother Paras (Shrisharsh Sharma) fuels her imagination with his continual teasing. Her father’s psychiatrist friend (Sameer Dharmadhikari) provides her the stability she needs to resolve the conflict in her mind.
The adults perform competently, but it is the children, especially Zoya who take your breath away. One wishes for more scenes between the children, as their relationship is lively and real, peppered with the imaginative tall tales Paras tells Zoya. The dialogue is easy on the ear, but being entirely in English, including the maid’s stilted delivery, it becomes tedious, since the film is based in Delhi.
The film moves slowly with flashes that project what Shruti has seen one day at home, and what she dreams about. They are primarily images of her mother. The flashes do raise curiosity but are repeated too often. And since the revelation that comes towards the end of the film is quite predictable, the stretched suspense seems forced.
The cinematography is passable at best. The music by Zakir Hussain is interesting, and livens the pace of the film, but is used excessively.
Since the canvas of the film is limited to the Shukla household with very few exterior scenes, it feels more like a television film. The narrative too lacks complexity, so it becomes difficult to comprehend what the purpose of the film is. Yes, the impact of parental discord on a child is sensitively handled, but the conflict between the parents in itself is too banal to arouse sympathy.
A mother who feels she has given up her dreams to take care of the family, and a father who is too busy chasing his own dreams to notice, seems old-fashioned to say the least. Particularly when the family is wealthy enough to afford all the help it requires to enable the parents to balance their careers and family if they want to. The fight between the parents seems too intense for a situation that could be easily rectified. This is not to deny that the impact of such a fight on a child can be immense. But the film dithers because it fails to stick to the child’s perspective, and moves to resolve the parents’ problems.
The track of the psychiatrist friend is very clumsy. The counseling sessions are unconvincing and are there to provide the explanation and the ‘surprise’.
‘For Real’ is writer, director Sona Jain’s debut feature film. She achieves a mature handling of actors, and shows sincerity in her concern for the family. The screenplay is not loud and each character reflects an inherent gentleness and dignity. The choice of subject however makes the film difficult to place in the Indian film-going scenario. It is for a niche audience that wants something different. The film is worth a watch for the performances, especially that of Zoya.