Teja and I grew up with very few ‘things’, but it was a different time when everyone around us had few ‘things’. Dhanno grew up with shops around her, the brands of the world available, friends with all the goodies in their homes. We had a few years where the balance between the money we had or were willing to spend, and her wants had to be constantly negotiated to make sure she had the right values and yet did not feel inferior to her peers.
‘Do Dooni Char’ touches a chord because a lot of us identify with those middle-class aspirations, the cut and thrust of a materialistic world, and the constant battle with children and their needs. The middle-class value of honesty comes into question. In a world that seems increasingly dishonest and where money seems to be the measure of success, the Duggal family moves from white lies to downright cheating, but redeem their pride in themselves in the nick of time.
I could forgive the forced climax,
and just swoon over Rishi Kapoor in his faded, shapeless, cheap nylon mix sweaters and his impeccable performance as a Maths teacher in a small private school, permanently hassled by the need to make ends meet, and Neetu Kapoor as the supportive, easy going wife and mother, smoothing the abrasive edges of a middle class family with her affection and the sparkle in her eye, but I am distanced by the voice-over of the teenage discontented daughter who narrates the entire film and a very busy background music track.
For instance, the scene where the family in their struggle to buy a car, finally decide on a cheap model, not really the one their daughter likes. She says in a voice-over while she sulks in the foreground, and her family move around doing various things in the background, “Whenever we get something new in our house, someone is upset about it.” This is because choices are made based on what they can afford and not what they really like. Now instead of telling me about this, why couldn’t there be a scene between the family, with all of them cranky, upset, bringing up past wounds? It would have been funnier and more poignant.
The voice-over seems to have become ubiquitous in Hindi cinema. But usually it is mundane and predictable, and doesn’t tell me anything beyond what I can already see in the film. It also seems to be a convenient way to get away with shabbily shot scenes, poor characterization and do away with any need to develop a scene through dialogue and emotion. Sometimes I wonder if the voice-over is imposed by the marketing guys after the edit, to make sure that no subtlety escapes their clutches. All I know is that voice-overs make me yawn and squirm in my seat and have reservations about the film, even when it has, like in ‘Do Dooni Char’ my favourite stars.