Tumhari Sulu

Director: Suresh Triveni
Music: Various
Year: 2018
Rating: 7.0

Translation: Yours Sulu

What is enjoyable about this film is what it doesn't try to do. There is no explosive drama, no slapstick comedy, no action heroes, no grand musical numbers - and yet it won a bunch of awards. Bollywood is changing. This is a simple, unambitious comedy-drama about a small middle class family doing their best to get by in the massive city of Mumbai where their story will go by unnoticed by nearly everyone. Just like most of our lives. Some good moments, some bad but mainly just going about the business of doing your job, loving your kids, taking care of your family the best you can and always hoping for the best. A small story but for the people involved it is everything.

Sulu (Vidya Balan) and her husband Ashok (Manav Kaul) are strictly middle class - he has a job that brings in enough money to live decently but by no means extravagantly - where a broken TV causes friction because they want it replaced - Sulu is old fashioned in her saris, her cooking and her devotion to her son and husband. But she wants something more. What it is isn't clear - but something that will allow her to be more than just a wife and mother. All sorts of ideas constantly come to her - the latest being a taxi driver - but duties and reality always knock them down.

Then through a series of slightly farfetched events she is offered a job as a talk show host on a late night radio show. Her parents and sisters laugh at her and tell her it is idiotic and her initially supportive husband slowly gives way to doubts and resentments while at the same time he sees his job being assaulted by a new jerk boss who is taking his manhood away. And her show is a hit with the lonely as she talks to them late into the night making them laugh and think and have a few minutes of connecting to someone.

And that is basically it - how it is all resolved. The film is real life in which the conversations and humor and anger spring naturally. It is really carried by the very fine acting of the two leads and excellent support from Neha Dhupia as the radio station manager. Vidya is a fine actress and has often taken on roles that are far from glamorous and is seemingly comfortable being slightly overweight in an industry where most of the actresses are sleek like racing cars. She deservedly won the Filmfare award as best actress. This the debut of director/writer Suresh Triveni and is another sign that a new generation of directors are changing the direction of Bollywood - or I should say not so much changing as expanding the sorts of films they have because there are still plenty of old fashioned films being made. There is an assortment of songs but most of them play unobtrusively over scenes of the film.