“Why don’t you ever find any joy in Jollywood?” “Why don’t you ever like anything?”—as a film critic, I’ve heard these questions so many times that if I got a rupee for every such insult, I’d be sitting atop a mountain of coins on the day of the Note-Bandi Diwas (that beautiful festival where we only use cash), smoking a cigar made from Rs 2,000 bills, blowing out Swastika-shaped plumes, and lamenting: “Man, what a tough life I have” (distant second: Elon Musk). Sorry, that was a long sentence. I’m excited, you see. Because earlier in the day, I watched a movie so bright, so beautiful, so brilliant, that I’m struggling to describe it. Bol ke lab azaad hain tere? Bro, I’ve no words.
Staying true to its name, Chamkila Productions has given us a radiant masterpiece that we both need and want, underscoring everything that’s Very Beautiful about our exceptional, extraordinary country: religious tolerance, gender equality, minority rights, boundless employment, unlimited hugs, and, of course, unfettered free speech. Maa Ki Mamta Aprampaar, Isse Accha Nahin Koi Sansaar: It’s All About Loving Your Mother(land) tells the story of three brothers—Eer, Bir and Phatte whose mother, Great Bharati (with a silent “i”, as she’s blind—eye-I, geddit?), has gone missing. They search for her everywhere, but she’s nowhere to be found. Utterly disconsolate, they approach a seemingly docile scientist, Ghallible, who has invented a time machine that lets people navigate the country’s glorious past and future. Maybe, the brothers think, their Great Bharat is in the past—maybe she’s in the future? She has to be somewhere after all.
As they start using the time machine, and failing again and again, the brothers must overcome jealousy among themselves. Not all is right between Eer and Bir it seems. Using the government’s Teen Tigada Kaam Tagda scheme, Eer, a journalist, has landed three jobs, while Bir, a doctor, has just one gig. As years pass and the time machine struggles to produce a favourable outcome, the brothers start suspecting Ghallible. Is he, as the others say, a “Fheeka Fascist” (a spy from the neighbouring country where authoritarianism is so lax that even its trains don’t run on time)? Has he used the time machine—which requires confidential information to login—to steal crucial state secrets from Phatte, a P&AW agent? In fact, that’s not all, sources say that Ghallible even writes poetry to mock the cat-lover Phatte: If I did something wrong, then I must ask for paw-don/ Just kitten, I’ve no contrition / Don’t y’all think you’ve become so abject / Rendered helpless by a crime so purrrfect.
Will Eer, Bir, and Phatte ever find their Great Bharat? Is Ghallible a patriot or a spy? Why does his time machine contain every dynasty in the past but not Muggle? Who is right, who is wrong? Is everything really what it seems? Yeh melody itni chocolatey kyun hai? (Sorry, ignore the last one—I got carried away.)
As evidenced from its plot, Maa Ki Mamta Aprampaar, Isse Accha Nahin Koi Sansaar: It’s All About Loving Your Mother(land) switches from one mode to the other with absolute ease. Sometimes it’s a family drama, sometimes an espionage thriller, sometimes political, sometimes patriotic. Everything about this film is great, but its greatest quality is its grasp on realism. There’s an 11-minute unbroken shot, showing how Bir downgrades from an eight-bedroom penthouse to a four-bedroom villa, which will break your heart. (I cried in the theatre, then cried on my way back home (in my Maserati)). I struggle to remember such heartfelt rendition of Indian poverty in our cinemas ever. (Sorry, Pather Panchali). In fact, this movie doesn’t just have its heart in the right place; it’s so beautiful that it has more than one heart.
The lead actors, known for their patriotic roles, have outdone themselves. Ajay Kumar as Eer is wonderful; Akshay Devgn as Bir is marvelous; Paresh Kher as Phatte is, uff what do I even say, subhanallah. And Bindi Ranaut as the Great Bharat? Sublime. I predict not just the International National Film Awards for them the next year but even the Padma Shree honour (#Feminist). Maa Ki Mamta Aprampaar, Isse Accha Nahin Koi Sansaar: It’s All About Loving Your Mother(land) also has 11 lovely songs (all of them remixes) but one among them, Sapnon Mein Sapna, stands out. Shot like a Nolanesque dream-within-a-dream sequence, it takes us through all the majestic mountains in our country (unlike the Swiss Alps in the old films), unfolding as socio-political commentary and pleasant punctuations. This movie experience was so cleansing that it resembled a dip in the holy Ganga, making me ask just one question of this great film (and of this great country, which this great film celebrates): Khwab ho ya tum koi haqeeqat, kaun ho tum batlao (Are you a dream or reality, who are you?)
[DISCLAIMER: The following stories in this issue are a work of fiction inspired by the state of news media today and are meant for reaction purposes only.]
(This piece appeared in the print as 'A Radiant Masterpiece ')