Tumhari Sulu tells us there is no such thing as an ordinary woman
The movie highlights the point that there is an interesting story behind every woman who dares to dream.
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Long before its release, Tumhari Sulu had captured my attention with its addictive and entertaining trailer, from which I could gather that it was the story of a woman seldom narrated in mainstream Hindi cinema. Tumhari Sulu is about a woman classified as "ordinary" by all standard yardsticks.
Sulochana aka Sulu, played by Vidya Balan, is the youngest of three siblings and her twin elder sisters are "achievers" because they are "educated" and have "respectable" jobs in banks. Sulu is a homemaker in Mumbai and lives a not-so-extraordinary life with her husband, Ashok (Manav Kaul), and teenage son, Pranav (Abhishek Sharma). Even in her monotonous life, she entertains herself by participating and winning in competitions meant for housewives and anticipates discovering her "true potential" in the process. The movie is about her personal journey of discovering and redefining herself and establishing her own identity once she starts working as a night radio jockey.
I have always adored Vidya Balan and was quite upset that Begum Jaan, which was released earlier this year, did not gather much attention and Balan drew criticism for her "over performance". With Tumhari Sulu, Vidya has proven her critics wrong. Vidya has portrayed the character so well that it becomes impossible to imagine anyone else in that role. She is comfortable with her body and makes us empathise completely with her aspirations and dreams. Her mannerisms that make us laugh out loud are commendable and she amuses us with her contagious belly laughter. I cannot recall a movie where the audience's laughter has been uncontrollable throughout.
As Balan's husband, Manav Kaul, has done justice to the role by being as natural as her. Ashok is a typical middle class man, working in a garment factory who believes that hard work would make life easier and better but ends up frustrated when things do not turn out as planned. Though initially he encourages his wife to go out and work, he becomes apprehensive about her "night job" and the sort of people she interacts with. His portrayal of a jealous and insecure husband is exemplary, especially in a scene where he tells his son, who was showing him the Sulu's photograph with Ayushmann Khurrana, that movie stars are "dirty" and most of them do not take a bath.
Neha Dhupia as Mariya - head of the radio channel - and Vijay Maurya as Pankaj - a comic good-at-heart programme director - have handled their roles with ease and wisdom. Director Suresh Triveni deserves a special mention for maintaining a neutral tone in narration and trying to bring out the essence of each character making it easy for the audience to relate to it. His success with this film asserts the fact that even in seemingly ordinary life situations, there is a chance for an extraordinary story.
He has tried to portray the middle class obsession with Class 12 marks and a "respectable job" with amazing grace. He has addressed some of the issues faced by working women including night travel, facing criticism from family for not being an "achiever" and being taken too lightly because of a lack of academic excellence.
I, however, felt that some song sequences could have been avoided because they did not appear to be imperative in the narration of the story and slowed the pace of storytelling.
Tumhari Sulu holds a mirror to the society which gives undue importance to academics, disrespects women who do "night jobs", makes fun of "under achievers" and demotivates women who dare to dream. This movie asserts the fact that a woman need not be an achiever, need not smoke or drink, need not wear short modern dresses to be qualified as a liberated woman. At office parties, Sulu secretly empties her glass when her colleagues force her to drink and she is absolutely comfortable in her sari.
The movie underlines the point that women just need to listen to themselves to pursue their passion. Definitely, there is an interesting story behind every woman who dares to dream.