Mandira Bedi at her best in ‘Meerabai Not Out’ (Film Review - Rating: ***)December 5th, 2008 - 4:14 pm ICT by IANS
Film: “Meerabai Not Out”; Cast: Mandira Bedi, Eijaz Khan, Anupam Kher, Mahesh Manjrekar and Anil Kumble; Director: Chandrakant Kulkarni; Rating: ***What do you say about a comedy that brings cricketer Anil Kumble on screen only to go down with hiccups?
Every time cricket fan Meera Achrekar (Mandira Bedi) remembers her favourite cricketer, Kumble bursts into hefty hiccups. Just goes to show, you can take Guddi out of our films — but you can’t take our films out of Guddi.
Each time Mandira whines about being in love with cricket and cricketer Anil Kumble to the tycoon who falls in love with her (Eijaaz Khan), she reminds us of Jaya Bhaduri in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s “Guddi”, so obsessed with movies and Dharmendra that she can’t think straight.
Meera can. If you want to play cricket, you have to think straight. To writer Soumik Sen’s credit, he gives Mandira a role to sink her teeth into. Experienced actor and cricket connoisseur that she is, Mandira gets into the groove with lip-smacking relish, abandoning lip gloss and hip-gyrations for rollicking sprints down Mumbai’s lanes with the boys of the colony.
Lamentably she isn’t required to play much cricket, just talk about it.
This either means that the screenwriter doesn’t endorse the zany image of Meerabai as a spunky iconoclast speeding around Mumbai’s crowded highway on a two-wheeler without gender care. Or it just means Mandira didn’t get time to practice her cricket on the field.
Be as it might, even the climactic cricket game in the chawl compound staged between Mandira’s beau and her brother (Mahesh Manjrekar) is perfunctory and more a snatch of a match to bring about the marital match than a breathless display of cricketing skills.
The prevalent mood of “Meerabai Not Out” is one of a plot not fully developed, and yet ripe enough to give out the appetizing aroma of a fruit on the way to ripening.
There is a lived-in flavour of a Marathi household with a harassed brother mumbling curses under his breath at the bus stop, a mother at home who worries constantly about the unmarried and cricket-smitten daughter in the house, a sister-in-law who thinks stealing an evening of paani-puri at the pavement is equivalent to domestic liberation and a well-to-do heart specialist who is so besotted by his cricketer girlfriend that he is willing to forgive her for everything including stealing away from their engagement function for a cricket match.
It doesn’t take too long for us to figure out that there’s more than a touch of Gurinder Chadha’s “Bend It Like Beckham in this instant sporty and sassy version of the inimitable Parminder Nagra’s gender-defying love of football in “Bend It Like Beckham”.
Parminder had Beckham, Mandira has Kumble. The cultural crossover is clever, though not fully realised. Often you feel the narration under-plays the conflict between what a girl does in life and what she should do. Just because it doesn’t want to stretch out its limbs.
Also, there’s the disturbing premise that finally Meera needs a man and in this case the man’s father (Anupam Kher) to see her dreams past the goal post.
As a desi version of “Bend It Like Beckham”, “Meerabai Not Out” is not bad at all. As a showcase for Mandira’s cricketing ambitions the narration brings her just about the best role she’s likely to get on the side of “Chak De! India”.