Outsourcing parenting duties to a meek domestic help isn’t uncommon in this part of the world with nannies being the lifeline of a home.
How often have you spotted a hapless help scurrying behind a naughty child at a mall or a park, as parents take a breather?
Director Shazia Ali Khan taps into that reality of the UAE with ‘Pinky Memsaab’, an earnest tale that chronicles the relationship between a socialite Mehr (Kiran Malik) from Jumeirah and her submissive Pakistani housemaid Pinky (Hajira Yamin).
It’s an intimate film which gives you a sense of voyeuristic delight as you peek into Mehr’s posh-but-imperfect life.
The film opens with Pinky landing her first job in the UAE where she’s on call to do menial tasks and nanny the wealthy couple’s young boy.
What director Khan gets right and spot on is the unhealthy inter-dependence between the employer and the employee, despite the unspoken class-divide. Pinky is that quintessential fresh-off-the-boat immigrant and actress Yamin does a commendable job of communicating her sense of awe and wonder at being transplanted in fantastical city like Dubai. Her feeling of alienation and her attempts to forge new bonds in a new country is wonderfully brought out in the first half.
Her interaction with her boss’ driver Santosh (Sunny Hinduja) who takes her under his wings is comic gold. Hinduja is in top form as Mehr’s affable driver. The Indian actor has nailed the accent and body-language. If you are a UAE resident, then the characters of this film will resonate and speak to you.
There’s a Jumeirah Jane — colloquialism for a rich socialite living in a posh locality of Dubai, an ambitious investment-banker husband (Adnan Jaffer) who is busy funding the rich lifestyle of his high-maintenance family and an army of staff to do their bidding. Their struggles and domestic crisis seem real.
While actress Malik takes a stab at playing Mehr convincingly, she is gawky on the emotionally-charged, conflict-ridden scenes. But the scenes in which she has to play the snooty ‘memsaab’ (boss), she’s pitch-perfect. She’s flawed, but fabulous. Her dynamics with her workaholic husband is convincing.
While the premise of ‘Pinky Memsaab’ is filled with potential, it doesn’t come together as a whole. The film begins on a promising note, but unnecessary drama and choppy plot twists — that involve Pink’s childhood mate becoming a bar dancer out of financial duress — make it a laborious watch towards the end.
The transformation of Pinky as a coltish villager into an assertive woman seems superficial. Somewhere along the way, you wonder if asking your help to switch from salwar-kameez (ethnic tunics) to Western attire like jeans and a T-shirt denotes being progressive or taking charge of your own life.
Pinky’s transformation and reckoning of her rights as an individual isn’t wholly believable. While the first half is all about Pinky, the second half is about Mehr’s coming-of-age. Her tenuous relationship with her estranged, erudite father and his second wife is handled maturely and is refreshingly melodrama-free.
But what makes this film stand out is the collective earnestness of the cast and crew. You can see that it’s their labour of love. It’s a fractured film with bursts of brilliance.
The drama — which trains its lens on Dubai’s vibrant streets — is a visual treat too, but if you are looking for a story that stirs you and stays with you long after the curtains close, then ‘Pinky Memsaab’ falls short. But it would be a disservice if you don’t give this film a shot in the cinemas as a UAE resident because it’s a scathing look at modern parenting and the rampant nanny culture.
Director: Shazia Ali Khan
Cast: Kiran Malik, Sunny Hinduja, Hajira Yamin and Adnan Jaffer
Stars: 2.5 out of 5