October 11th, 2012

Till a few years ago, Bollywood was known for churning out hero-centric movies. The leading ladies were treated as mere props or eye candy in most Hindi movies. That's not all, heroine-centric themes were considered dicey, since not many were ready to invest their crores on stories that centred around female protagonists. But 2012 has made the naysayers chew their words. The year belongs to those gutsy film-makers and of course, the enterprising ladies who changed the rules of the game. Films like KAHAANI, JISM 2, RAAZ 3, HEROINE and ENGLISH VINGLISH challenged the male dominance at the box-office. Now AIYYAA, which rides on Rani Mukerji's shoulders, is all set to break the stereotype.

Like all Anurag Kashyap movies [he wears the producer's hat this time, it's directed by Sachin Kundalkar], AIYYAA takes on a novel premise and transports you to an altogether new world. This time, it's about a middle class family living in Mumbai. What sets it apart is that this Maharashtrian girl - Tamil guy prem kahani [Rani, Prithviraj] is woven around the concept of smell/aroma. Also, a lot many middle class girls feel suffocated when they can't choose the guy they want to spend the rest of their life with. In AIYYAA, the girl chooses her own groom, defying her family's choice. But AIYYAA is not a serious take on the institution of marriage. It's an amusing journey, actually.

AIYYAA is a desi film at heart. Also, quirky and funny. But the humor is more of the Hrishikesh Mukherjee/Basu Chatterjee variety. What makes this film stand apart is that it does away with the crutches of big stars [except Rani], forced humor, unnecessary songs, international locales or grandiose sets. Its strength lies in its cohesive script and able performances.

Meenakshi [Rani Mukerji] is a young Maharashtrian woman who is fixated with movies and movie stars and loves escaping into her make-believe world. She gets attracted to a painter, Surya [Prithviraj Sukumaran], because he smells good. But there's a hitch: She's all set to be engaged to Madhav [Subodh Bhave], who happens to be her parents' choice.

Although the plot is innovative, but skeletal, what keeps the film going is Sachin Kundalkar's ability to stumble upon humor in the most ordinary situations. In fact, a number of sequences merit a mention here, but that would ruin the fun. Again, this is one of those rare movies where every actor, big or small, sparkles in their respective part. Wait, beyond the laughs and smiles, there's a sensitive side to AIYYAA as well. The girl is eventually torn between the man she desires and the man she's all set to be engaged to. The emotional conflict towards the concluding stages may seem convenient, but is completely satisfying nonetheless.

Sachin catches the pulse of the Maharashtrian backdrop and does immense justice to the written material. Moreover, while the middle class setting of Mumbai has been explored in several Hindi movies, it looks so real in AIYYAA. The characters, their home, the verbal communication… everything seems original here. This director, in my opinion, is a prized find.

On the flipside, it takes time to get the hang of things. Also, the first half seems stretched, with a few unnecessary sequences adding to the run time. But the second hour more than compensates for the deficiencies.

Amit Trivedi's music is already a sure-fire hit. 'Dreamum Wakeuppam' is already a chartbuster and so is 'Aga Bai'. The tantalizing and enticing choreography of these two tracks [Vaibhavi Merchant] deserves distinction marks. The DoP [Amalendu Choudhary] captures the essence of the Maharashtrian surroundings beautifully. I'd like to make a special mention of the casting director [Chinmay Kelkar] for choosing actors who fit wonderfully well in their respective parts.

AIYYAA is what it is for varied reasons and one of them is Rani's livewire act. A complete natural, Rani glides through her part with brilliance. An accomplished actor, who can handle the comic sequences with as much flourish as the emotional ones, Rani is absolutely ravishing. Prithviraj, who has several South Indian films to his credit, does a super job in his first Hindi outing. He has striking screen presence, has worked hard to get in shape, but most importantly, he is a damn confident actor.

Subodh Bhave is excellent and matches up to Rani on several occasions. Nirmiti Sawant [Rani's mother] incites laughter in abundance. So does Jyoti Subhash [the grand-mom], who is too funny. Anita Date [as Maina, Rani's colleague] is superb. Ditto for Ameya Wagh [Rani's brother], who's an actor to watch. Satish Alekar [Rani's father], Kishori Ballal [Prithviraj's mother] and Pakada Pandi [canteen boy] are wonderful in their respective parts.

On the whole, there are reasons aplenty as to why AIYYAA becomes a deserving watch. It's arresting, amusing, entertaining and of course, thoroughly enjoyable, with Rani's splendid act, refreshingly different plot, winsome songs, pleasant humor and terrific moments as its aces. Don't miss it!

Published with permission from Source.

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