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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain, Review: Show me that you love me

Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain, Review: Show me that you love me

Delhi-born director Harish Vyas makes his Hindi film debut with an adult love story set in Varanasi where the only thing adult about the theme is the fact that the lead actors are husband and wife and gave a grown-up daughter. In fact, the issue it addresses till three quarters of the film has rolled by is the lack of demonstrative love between a conscientious postal clerk and his devoted wife. Enough to keep you curious and sensitised for 108 minutes? No, not enough.

Set in the land of Ganges-Varanasi (Banaras; the ghats), Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain derives its name from the first line of a song written by Majrooh Sultanpuri for an early 80s film. It is an all-time hit number and the second half of the line goes, ‘Ke I love you’.  That part is really the operative premise of the story: Notice the love emanating from your partner/spouse, say that you love each other and do not feel awkward at public displays of affection (PDA). The last might not come easily in Indian small towns like Varanasi, and the film works towards this end.

Everything seems to be going well for Yashwant Batra (Sanjay Mishra)—a pot-bellied government servant who has a submissive wife, Kiran (Ekavali Khanna), and a rebellious daughter, Preeti (Shivani Raghuvanshi)—but there is a strong aura of disappointment and years of pent up frustration that looms over the Batra household. Both the women of the house desire to be loved and treated as equals, but the patriarch demands his wife stays in the kitchen, and daughter marries the groom of his choice, and not her neighbourhood lover, Jugnu (Anshuman Jha). What makes things worse is the fact that Kiran comes from a rich family, and they rub this in every time they meet Yashwant.

Yashwant leads a dull and drab existence, where his daily fix of alcohol and occasional chicken are the only sources of solace. Two events are going to change his life forever: Preeti is going to marry Jugnu secretly and Preeti’s family is going to humiliate Yashwant once too often. He decides that will now live alone. Preeti has left for her in-laws’ place (next-door, but nevertheless another house) and he tells Kiran to move out to her parental home.

Director Harish Vyas has penned the story and collaborated o the screenplay with another debutant, Aryan Saha. As stories go, Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain is wafer thin. Several films of the period 1950-70, especially those that were made by studios in Madras (now Chennai) repeatedly highlighted the rich-poor divide in similar manner. The other parallel track, that takes over the class conflict, is the ‘If you love her, tell her’ constituent. It’s a nice line and a noble thought, though definitely not great cinema. There are very few plot points, the attitude of Yashwant appears illogical and his behavior contrived. When the story is about a simplistic truism, you need a solid screenplay to carry it through.

Jugnu’s father is painted as a crank who gifts you anything of his if you praise it. He also does not look convincing as a fitness buff and the owner of multi-lingual teaching classes. There is a long scene where Yashwant comes to the classes, planning to give a rose and a card to Kiran, and things get messed up. Here was a good thing going, which the makers extended beyond tolerance limits. Advising Yashwant on how to win over his wife, the neighbor suggests he imitate Indian superstar ShahRukh Khan, and stutter, “Kkkkkk….iran”, because SRK had done it in an iconic film twenty-five years ago. Instead of sounding funny, the scene trivialises Yashwant’s pain. In another unrelated scene, a man called Feroz (Pankaj Tripathi) goes into his kitchen and emerges with two cups of coffee in five seconds flat. By the way, angle of a love marriage between a Muslim man and a Hindu girl is well-written and heart rending. But even here, Feroz’s desperation in getting medi-claim and his demeanour as a Muslim are not well delineated.

Sanjay Mishra (Saathiya, Golmaal: Fun Unlimited, Journey Bombay to Goa: Laughter Unlimited) is an immensely talented actor who has been tasked to manufacture the drama, and he does not seem too comfortable doing so. Pankaj Tripathi (Bareilly Ki Barfi, Gurgaon, Newton) adopts a natural approach even as the empathy he generates elevates his performance. Shivani Raghuvanshi (Titli) is bubbly and intense, as required, and gets noticed. Ekavali Khanna (Chaplin, Bollywood Diaries, Bioscopewala) fits into the ‘domestic drudgery with a smile’ mould. She needs to work on her clipped and sibilant tones, though, as they tend to push her out of character. Brijendra Kala (Haasil, Jab We Met, Paan Singh Tomar) is cast as the language institute owner and persona has been described above. Add to that, slurring of speech, which is an impediment in this role. Adequate support comes from Imran Zahid, Teji Sandhu and Ipshita Chakroberty.

Music, for once in a long time, is an essential and integral part of the film. The credits read Mohit Chauhan (playback singer), Hazrat Ameer Khusro (lyricist), Pradeep Sharma ‘Khusro’ (lyrics), Pravin Kunwar (musical director), Pravin Kunwar (composer: theme music), Pushplata (playback singer), Shaan (playback singer), Pratibha Tiku Sharma (lyrics), Yogesh(lyrics). Now for those who are ignorant about Hazrat Ameer Khusro, he is not a lyricist but a sufi poet-music composer and musician, who wrote in Hindvi as well as Farsee (Persian). An overwhelming number of his compositions have been used in Hindi-Urdu films, although he died some 700 years ago.

Which brings us to Pradeep Sharma ‘Khusro’. No, no, no…he’s no descendent. But he is a fanatic fan and has appropriated the ‘taqhallus’ (nom de plume/pen name). With 375 books, and 55 digitised images of rare paintings of Khusro, he keeps virtually anything with Khusro on it or in it. And there's more. He holds 2000 released and un-released audio-video records (gramophone records, DVDs, cassettes and documentaries) of Khusro’s songs, ‘bandishes’ and ‘ragas’. (Info might need updating)! Lastly, Yogesh. Lucknow-born Yogesh Gaur is a veteran film lyricist who started writing on the early 1960s. Among his popular numbers are songs from Mili, Chhotisi Baat, Anand and the 1995 vehicle, Bewafa Sanam. Not much has been heard about him in the last two decades, so it is nice to see him resurface at the age of 75.

Sanjay Mishra is also the narrator of the film. Firstly, it did not need a narrator. Secondly, if it was felt necessary, another voice would have been more appropriate. And that does not mean even for a second that Sanjay has done a bad job.

Rating: **


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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