“Jisko ungli pakad kar chalna sikhaya tha, uska haath chodne aaya hun”, says Irrfan trying to defend himself as he might be charged for being a criminal. In this scene, Irrfan and Dobriyal sit besides Kareena Kapoor in a hospital corridor wherein her mother is admitted. On assuming to be a burden on her mother, Kareena tries to defend her desire to live an independent life, to which an ever so tender, however regressive Irrfan rants as to how children “use” their parents till the age of 18, and then in the name of freedom, just cut all ties as if they are a burden on them and not the other way round. Though with the point that this particular scene comes on screen, it seems like parental manipulation of restricting freedom or seeing their children excel at their cost.
Irrfan Khan’s first release after being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumour, Homi Adajania’s Angrezi Medium is a sequel to the 2017 hit Hindi Medium, directed by Saket Chaudhary. Just like its predecessor, this film also shares the same formula, that of a comedic ton, emotional sensitivity, self-realisation etc, however unlike the previous one, this sequel gets muddled by the end of it and storyteller himself doesn’t realise that he has diverted from the story he is trying to tell.
The film starts off promising. Veteran Cinematographer Anil Mehta leaves no stone unturned in establishing and romancing the city of Udaipur, more than it already has been. The story starts off there, and is about a confused man turned sweet shop owner Champak Bansal (Irrfan Khan), a single parent, raising his daughter Tarika (Radhika Madan), who is about to turn 18. In the first 15-20 minutes, the director establishes their relationship beautifully, one that is funny, supporting, loving, just like any father and daughter bond, but here, in the absence of a mother which multiplies the emotions at least by 100.
Tarika is obsessed with wanting to go abroad, as it has been her dream growing up. Hence when an opportunity opens up, an average student, with sheer dedication and some kind of luck (obviously) succeeds in getting the scholarship that will take her to London. However, Champak, in the middle of a legal battle with his brother, unintentionally jeopardises that move, and now if Tarika has to study abroad, it will be with his money. Irrfan, blaming himself for killing his wife’s dreams, will make sure that her daughter doesn’t live that way, and hence will jump any hurdle to make sure that her daughter’s dreams come true.
However, other than this father daughter relationship, when the film moves forward, it starts losing its ground and authenticity and pulls off forced build ups just for gags within subplots, that though funny at first maybe, still are cringe and regressive. The extravagant genius Pankaj Tripathi feels misused playing a stereotypical middle-eastern man. Since as Indians they got blacklisted, making them a Pakistani citizen with fake names, that of Pakistani cricketer Saqlain Mushtaq and Abdul Razaak, and teaching them, “Inshallah! Boys played well”. All this felt lazy, stereotypical, cringe writing just there for its comic timing.
When the film skips the continent and reaches London, the film gets even more complicated by inventing new characters and plots, that aren’t tied up at all, leading to the muddled approach that the film takes up. An over the top Indian turned NRI dealer (Ranveer Shorey), a bitter single mother (Dimple Kapadia) and an arrogant cop (Kareena Kapoor).
Angrezi Medium just turns into this melodramatic soap opera with fake agents and car chases and a regressive climax from what we thought for it to be – a coming of age story between a father daughter bond and rebellion defended as freedom which ultimately is the reason one loses emotional connect with parents.
The director, along with his four writers, try selling the idea of wokeness and a forward thinking father from a small town who will do anything to support his daughter in achieving her goals, but instead, it becomes the stark opposite wherein it’s the father achieving HIS goals FOR her through manipulating her into submitting. The screenplay feels loose and incomplete as it neither ties up loose ends, nor does it give a redemptive arc to Irrfan’s character to make amends for the mistakes his commits earlier.
However, with such a brilliant and extravagant task, a lot of it could be unseen. All Kareena Kapoor needed was an extended cameo to show us that screen time cannot take away any of her glam. Radhika Madan performs her character with all her innocence, but with the kind of cast around her, still feels novice in a group full of veterans. Deepak Dobriyal, yet again, is unbelievably funny and yet effortless. His character of Gopi steals the show with just stomach holding laughter even in scenes not meant to be funny.
This however is the Irrfan show. It’s been 2 years since we last saw him, and he makes a comeback and how. This aching actor, still recovering, when on screen, seemed like he had missed romancing the frame. For fans of this charismatic actor, it is yet another feather in his hat in terms of performances. Let it be his vulnerability, his innocence portrayed through comedy or an aching heart of a father, Irrfan, just like he used to, pulls it off with sheer ease but conviction.
Homi Adajania’s Angrezi Medium, loaded with stars, however falls flat and rather superficial as it gives no time for a character study, neither does it give a fulfilling arc to even its lead cast for the experience to be fulfilling, but rather ends up being a different story from what he started off of with staged, cringeworthy humour.