A feel-good film that pays tribute to Mumbai’s iconic Irani cafes, as well as the Pari community, follows the formulaic template where we know what the end will be as soon as the conflict is established. Writer-director Neeraj Udhwani takes the safe route with the coming of age of the lead character, just changes the packaging by putting him in a Parsi skin.
The film starts with it being Rumi’s (Prit Kamani) 19th birthday, and his mother gives him one of his late father Rusi’s (Javed Jaffrey) Italian leather shoes. Rumi tries wearing it but they don’t fit him, which is also what he says out literally. He is not somebody who will carry out his family’s legacy of running their prestigious Iranian Café, but rather he wants to be an actor. He is a millennial with an identity crisis, of which he complains to the ghost of his father, because everything he got on his birthday was something that his father left back, like he was forced to be like him.
His widow mother Diana (Manisha Koirala) is obsessed with two things, the café being her dead husband’s legacy, and her son taking over that legacy because once Rustom told her looking at Rumi’s fingers that he has the fingers of a maskawala (baker), and she thought that he would bring back that café back to its prime from its current state of almost being. What lacks here itself is the conviction of both ideas. For Koirala in terms of expectations, and for Prit in terms of conviction. Prit is so naïve that his thought of being an actor came after his mother’s friend complimented him about being handsome after he won a Parsi society pageant contest.
Prit is a Mumma’s boy. We don’t just see it, but the writer feels the need for him to actually say it. He wants to dream big, but doesn’t have any idea how to go about it. He is still innocent and doesn’t understand that not all dreams end up being true. He challenges laws of nature, rebels against his mother, but somehow still lacks the conviction or drive or even talent to be an actor, something he realises way later.
The writing here feels inconsistent and, on the surface, as it does nothing to take any character’s arc forward completely and what we’re left with is just a superficial feel good story of Bombay and what makes it that. There is a disconnect from the very beginning because the film tries too hard. Manisha Koirala playing a widow Parsi mother Diana is overly eccentric and loud, because it fits the convenient stereotype of a Parsi mother. Javed Jaffrey plays a ghost of Rumi’s father “Rustom” because that’s totally not the first stereotypical name that pops in your head when you talk about Parsis. The writer don’t go above accents and catch phrases, which makes the Parsiness look made up, which doesn’t help with empathising with the core concept of the film, the legacy of Irani cafes that make up Mumbai, which for the millennials now is nothing more than just Brick and Mortar, while for the others, a place to “vibe”.
In one of the scenes, Prit goes through an identity crisis while talking to the ghost of his father. Jaffrey, does what we’ve known him to do best, deliver comedy with an absolute straight face, and this time, as a ghost, delivers dead man jokes, one of the most hilarious scenes in the film. But in another film, Boman Irani is the judge for Prit’s final acting course test, and on being asked, “bahut mehnat ki hai na?” to which he replies, “zyada hi mehnat”.
This statement is true even to the film. Maska tries too hard to be that feel-good film with a nostalgic ode to one of Bombay’s cultures, but over the course of its two-hour long journey, fails to pierce your hearts or make you love the city or the culture. The off-beat piece would’ve had enough to offer to the viewers in this state of captivity about how maybe once this lifts off, things will back to we always knew them to be, but sadly all this film does is scratches the surface without showing any intent to dive deep, and hence even after predicting what the end would be, there is no excitement for when it actually happens because the build up to it doesn’t do justice, but rather takes a convenient route.