There’s something unsavoury about a lustful caller who dials into a late night show expecting a radio jockey to give him love advice. His knickers are in a twist because he’s in love with two sisters and can’t decide whom to choose. But the housewife-turned-radio jockey Sulu, amiably played by Vidya Balan, listens patiently as she plucks a pea from its pod and compares his libidinous predicament to that green pea that is confused about whether it should mix with potato or with cottage cheese in a curry.
In one stroke, Balan manages to de-sexualise the situation and makes it warm and witty.
It’s clear that this Indian National Award-winning actress is having fun playing the spirited, suburban housewife Sulu. She isn’t college-educated, but what she lacks in a formal degree she makes up for with her never-say-never attitude. She’s the kind of mother who goofs around with a cape over her sari like an Indian wonder woman, wins every lemon and spoon race in her son’s school, teases her cute husband (another knockout performer Manav Kaul) and is eager to slay all her detractors (read judgemental siblings) when they rightfully question the nature of her shady job as this late night RJ who’s on call to sound sexy.
The best part about director Suresh Triveni’s Tumhari Sulu is the realistic way in which the characters come alive. There’s no room for pretence in their simple lives.
The first half of the film is delightful as Sulu transports you into her middle-class, utopian existence. She’s extraordinary as this ordinary woman who doesn’t let life get in the way of her happiness. Her husband, Ashok, is painfully ordinary but together they share an affable chemistry that’s rare to find in Hindi films. Their insecurities as a couple and joys of companionship are conveyed with understated flair.
While the first half cruises along wonderfully, buoyed by spectacular performances by all the actors, the second half is bogged down by some heavy-handed treatment. The dark, troubled twists seems forced and unnecessary. Sulu’s modern-day womanhood struggles to balance home and work are real, but they stumble on how to convey it and ruin it with cloying melodrama.
Neha Dhupia, as Sulu’s boss, puts in a respectable performance and is commanding in her role. While you may question how easy it was for Sulu to find a job, Balan exudes a certain vulnerability and sweetness that makes it easier to be invested in her journey. Sulu’s all heart.
If you are in the mood for a sweet family drama that has a generous helping of comedy and excellent performances, then make sure to watch Tumhari Sulu.
Film: Tumhari Sulu
Director: Suresh Triveni
Cast: Vidya Balan, Manav Kaul, Neha Dhupia.
Running time: 2 hours
Stars: 3.5 out of 5