A spin off to the 2017 much loved Hindi Medium, Angrezi Medium makes us realise right at the outset how much we missed seeing Irrfan Khan on screen. Its where he shines his brightest . The film was shot at time Irrfan was bravely recovering from illness and while his health battle continues , the actor is in impeccable form doing what he does best - effortlessly bringing to life his characters on screen. Here he plays Champak Bansal, a single father bringing up his daughter. Taarika (Radhika Madan) is an average student, shares an endearing bond with her dad and has big dreams of travelling the world. Champak soon realises that no matter how much he tries and keeps her aspirations in check because of his own fears, she is likely to leave him, his unconditional love for the daughter eventually makes him relent. The only problem - he unintentionally commits an act that jeopardises her scholarship to a university in London. So, if Taarika wants to study in the UK in the college of her choice, it would be a financial burden borne solely by the family.
There are four writers, Bhavesh Mandalia, Gaurav Shukla, Vinay Chhawall and Sara Bodinar, who are credited with writing the story, but sadly they end up pulling the film in 4 different directions. Angrezi Medium meanders endlessly and makes many unnecessary stops on its way. Director Homi Adajania has the mammoth task of keeping us engaged for almost 145 mins but he manages that only sporadically. We make many stops, sometimes in a courtroom where the family is shown fighting a case or to follow a shady travel agent who smuggles you into foreign lands. Champak and his younger brother also befriend an angry old lady while trying to steer clear of a London cop. And it’s as frustrating as waiting for an ad to be over before we can watch a video on YouTube. The real story is no where in sight.
There are a lot of interesting threads that are introduced and eventually abandoned. One is the daughter’s obsession with going abroad. It isn’t as much about academic excellence but more about being starry-eyed about a culture and way of life she has little exposure to. There’s also the element about parents going out to do whatever it takes in order to fulfil their child’s dreams. And then there’s the generational tussle about holding one’s own and fighting for privacy and eventually flying away from the nest. How does the parent deal with the empty nest syndrome? Sadly, Angrezi Medium somehow finds solace in emotional blackmail and guilt tripping the kid into submission. It’s problematic and also deeply unsettling, not just the “submission” to the parent’s wishes but also how the film chooses to deal with a young girl’s quest to experience life .
Angrezi Medium is teeming with some very strong performances although they all appear mostly as extended cameos. Dimple Kapadia as a sour tempered older woman, Kareena Kapoor as an always angry police cop and Ranvir Shorey as the dubious childhood friend Babloo are amongst the cast. Pankaj Tripathi, in a bit role playing a shady Dubai based agent, is so good that one resents the fact that he has such little screen time. For most parts Angrezi Medium belongs to Irrfan and Deepak Dobriyal. The comic timing they conjure up is brilliant. Their scenes together and especially those with Kiku Sharda have a charm of its own although in the larger scheme of things it amounts to nothing much as far as taking the story forward is concerned. Radhika Madan as a girl on the cusp of adulthood is fine but her halting dialogue delivery betrays a slight unease.
However, it’s when the camera rests on Irrfan that everything seems to come together. Here is an actor who conveys so much so effortlessly, a compelling performance as a doting father as well as his trademark style of wry humour is as effective as ever. It’s an Irrfan show all the way in a film that suffers due to its overwrought plot twists.
Rating: 2.5 Quints out of 5.
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