Jeez, it's that sassy spunky urbane chick mouthing that 'f' word again! Last week it was Rani Mukherjee in No One Killed Jessica. This time it's the delightfully spontaneous Gul Panag playing a working-girl in an ad agency on the verge of 30 whose life isn't quite working out, watching her life come apart at the seams.
Omigosh! This is Sex & The City transposed to Mumbai without much mishap. 'Class' Inside Handle With Care. No damaged goods here in delivering a punch-filled sassy and spicy chick flick-- thank God!--though our 'chick' Naina is quite a damaged good. Abandoned by her well-to-do boyfriend, she weeps with unabashed self-pity in front of the bathroom mirror and pleads begs and whines with him to "take her back".
In one of the film's best sequences, Naina's ex-boyfriend comes home to collect his things. Gul Panag's body language and her desperate attempts to provoke him into emotional and sexual submission echoed Shabana Azmi's celebrated 'party' sequence in Mahesh Bhatt's Arth where she pleaded with her husband to take her back.
"Is she better in bed?" Gul asks with poignant aggression.
The problem, you realize in telling the tale of an urban girl's adventures in the Big Bad City is the language. While the debutante director, in control of her narration and characters, gets the mood right, the dialogues often appear to be straining for effect.
Which chick of today hitting on a guy in a bar (or for that matter, anywhere) uses a term like 'fuddy-duddy'?
The chick flick, as it is rather crudely called, is an alien genre in Bollywood. Debutante director Alankrita Shrivastava gets the tone and the spirit of urbane female bonding far more accurately than in the recent Aisha which was all about girlie accessories. Turning 30 goes for the inner-wear. And tear.
The music is loud and played at just the right decibel. The characters seem to be grooving in rhythm most of the time. Once Purab Kohli (rakish, almost dropping in like he does uninvited for coffee with Deepika Padukone in that ad) makes a late entry into Naina's sterile life (a la Raj Kiran in Arth) the film kind of loses its ebullient spirit. The narrative gets lazy. Naina's 30th birthday party just goes on and on…Naina and her friends play 'truth or dare'. Two girls confess they're lesbians…Laughter! Shock! Acceptance…warm hugs. You get the picture?
But at the end of it all, we do care about what happens to Naina's adrift life. How Naina gets back her groove makes an interesting if at times sluggish story. The situations created in the script appear straight out of the urbane chaos of designer labels and self-preserving image-creation. It is quite evident that the director has lived through many of Naina's experiences. The narrative has an endearing fluidity and fluency to it. Girls here wanna have fun. But dammit! It's those guys who keep raining on their parade.
The unabashed references to the protagonist's sex life and physicality are new to Hindi cinema. Future shock? Gul Panag plays Naina with a disarming mix of transparency and confusion. She lets the character's strength and vulnerability hang out in the same line of vision creating a world that is at once lived-in and unexplored. What a wonderful experience just watching Gul light up the screen once again after Dhoop and Dor.
The supporting actors are all like people you've bumped into in Mumbai in an elevator or while waiting in line to get into a multiplex to watch a film like Turning 30.
New cinematographer Akshay Singh shoots the characters in a way that they appear in a far better light than they would otherwise. Fresh, feisty and well-designed with above-average technical virtues Turning 30 is more a chic than a chick flick.
Nothing fuddy-duddy about it.