Sui Dhaaga – Made in India begins with a single long tracking shot that immediately establishes all the members of the film’s principal household. There’s Mauji, played by Varun Dhawan – a simpleton (and wastrel – at least in the eyes of his father) who introduces himself thus: “Jaisa naam, waisa kaam. Kuch bhi karwa lo, karoon toh poori mauj ke saath.” Mamta, his wife (played by Anushka Sharma), is arguably the only mature, reasonable person in the house – a woman who, he wistfully remembers, never really got an opportunity to know him properly before their betrothal. Her body posture may be stooped and her head forever draped in dupattas, but this is a woman with reserves of inner steel, even if her daily life is dictated by the demands of a rather patriarchal mentality.
The man of the household, played by Raghubir Yadav, is the biggest hoot of the lot. His relationship with his son is one that unfolds over a steady stream of innuendo and pithy but brutal observations, and he has already lost “an entire mountain of hair” worrying about the aimlessness of his kid, even as he strives hard to withhold his pent-up emotions while watching TV soaps. As for the matriarch herself (played by a wonderful Yamini Das), she’s a rotund character suffering from a couple of blocked arteries who nevertheless ensures that Mamta flits from one mundane, humdrum task to another–from ironing shirts for her husband to packing tiffin boxes for him–and she’s described at one point by her son as “iraade mazboot par dil kamzor”.
There’s a lovely earthiness to the proceedings, and when the sweater-clad Mauji, thus far reduced to serving lunch for his boss and carrying wedding invitations in his mouth like a dog (and howling, whining and sniffing like one) finally decides he has had enough, he tells his wife, Agar gaaliyan hi khaani hai, toh taaliyon ki awaaz mein pade. Bewajah joote khaane ka kya faayda?” There is a lovely, lyrical quality to the travails that they undergo thereafter – from an inherent naivety that comes from being uneducated in the ways of the world, to having to grapple with mercenary mindsets – even if the story itself has an unmistakable sense of predictability to it, and the film unfolds in a rather syrupy, Disney-esque vein from then on.
Dhawan tends to stick out like a sore thumb in films that are of a subtler shade – like the lovely October earlier this year – but he visibly has a blast playing louder, less restrained characters, and his performance here is a winning one, as are those by pretty much everyone else in the cast. The detailing is nuanced: in the way Mamta casts a sideward glance at a TV set even as she attends to her father-in-law; in the way characters pronounce naashta as naasta and sharam as saram and consider setting up businesses as phipty-phipty partnerships; and in the way a woman who has just returned from a heart surgery asks her husband about the bill amount straight away without even pausing to think of anything else.
Sui Dhaaga is as much a parable about the importance of maintaining one’s dignity as it is an ode to the spirit of entrepreneurship, and the tapestry that Sharat Katariya constructs in this heartfelt follow-up to his equally winning film, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, is as intricately stitched together as the maxi dresses that Mauji creates for his mother. The filmmaker clearly revels in exploring the intricacies of daily life in small-town India, and in his hands, both indigeneity and ingenuity can often mean the same thing.
In one of the film’s best scenes, Mamta teases her husband with a riddle so that he can unearth what could potentially be a killer name for their newly established enterprise. On having cracked the riddle at long last (but not by himself), Mauji comes up with “Mad in India” as an afterthought, completely oblivious to the difference a skipped vowel can make, and the earnest, goofy grin that plays out on his face then is singularly priceless. As is Katariya, and the latter might well be described as a director who’s mad about India.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Shreehari H is a lover of films and an even greater lover of writing.