Angrezi Medium - a wee bit of bother guv

Angrezi Medium, the Irrfan Khan starrer that had the misfortune of releasing a week before the Corona lockdown shuttered the cinema halls, has now been released on Hotstar. Not really a sequel to the 2017 film Hindi Medium, except the fact that that in both films, the parents (both mom and dad in the original and just a single dad in this one) go to extreme lengths to get their kid educated "correctly", Angrezi Medium is a curate's egg.

In Hindi Medium, the parents were desperate to get their kid into an English medium school in order to give her a leg up, and although that film had its flaws, it humorously showed the ugly side of the Indian education system, its hierarchy and dichotomy, and the desperation and obsession of desi parents. In Angrezi Medium, Irrfan plays Champak, an overly doting father to Radhika Madan's foreign-obsessed daughter Tarika. She wants to go to study to a university in England, gets admission on her own merit, then that admission gets derailed by an incident involving her father, and the rest of the movie is about him trying to make amends and rectify the situation. Along the way, however, there are sub-plots about fights for naming rights to the family-owned halwai shop with the father's cousin (Deepak Dobriyal), illegal immigration (Pankaj Tripathi in a cameo), and an NRI mother daughter duo with a troubled relationship (Dimple Kapadia and Kareena Kapoor Khan).

Radhika Madan, in her third film after Vishal Bharadwaj's messy, overwrought Pataakha (2018) and the zany, out-of-the-box Mard ko Dard Nahi Hota (2019), is adequate as the typical self-obsessed teen. Dimple and Kareena are essentially wasted on a sub-plot that could have been excised without any material impact. Ranvir Shorey as Babloo, the faux Brit accent toting NRI is also sketchily drawn. Deepak Dobriyal, who showed his comedic genius as Pappi in Tanu Weds Manu (2011) and Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015), after his breakthrough dramatic performance in Omkara (2006), is very good as the other, "original" Ghasiteram. Irrfan mitigates his trademark Irrfanisms (the clipped dialog delivery, the sarcasm and snark) to play the loving single dad willing to go to any lengths but the script, which keeps ratcheting up the ante, makes him look foolish and naive.

The first half of the film has its funny moments, especially involving the two brothers and their friend played by Kiku Sharda (who plays Baccha Yadav on TV's The Kapil Sharma Show), when they get together for their nightly tippling sessions, and some nice father-daughter bonding like the scene where the daughter turns the tables on her father after she comes home tipsy. The second half, however, when the action shifts to England, goes off the rails completely, but at least mercifully there are no implicit or explicit racist digs at "the goras" making them look caricatures and none of them spout bad Hindi with a "teen guna Lagaan" hangover. In the end, Angrezi Medium, to quote the Bard, is much ado about nothing.

April 12, 2020

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