By Subhash K Jha, IANS
Hey, this film rocks! Tanuja Chandra's DUSHMAN and to some extent SANGHARSH and SUR, were incredibly sensitive films. After a long hiatus the director returns to form with a film that's heartbreakingly real.
Colonized by a cluster of believable characters, ZINDAGGI ROCKS showcases Sushmita Sen's awesome personality in a tailor-made role of the fey-and-fab Kriya. A stage performer and a single mother, the role acquires a tangy flavour and an abiding character that only Sen knows how to create. "But have no fear," her 13-year old utterly endearing son Druv (Julian Burkhadt) mischievously tells the doctor who's getting interested in her. The mom ain't married. Nor is she an unwed mother.
Kriya, trust her to be unpredictable, adopted Druv when he was 2. Dhruv's majestically malfunctional family comprises only of wacky women, mom Kriya, Kriya's mom (Moushumi Chatterjee) and her wacked-out twin sister (Moushumi, in a double role, a carryover homage to Kajol's twin act in Tanuja's Dushman), a squeaky secretary (Kim Sharma) and an assistant (Ravi Gossain) who believes he's a cowboy. Into this madhouse of malfunctional wackos comes the hesitant repressed Dr Suraj Rihan (Shiney Ahuja). The Sushmita-Shiney relationship grows in full of view of the fingers-crossed hospital staff and the equally curious and encouraging family of Kriya's relatives.
Tanuja Chandra portrays the warmth at work, at play and within the defined comforts of domesticity with a deftness and warmth that you'd come across in the finest works of Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Or more with the times, the cinema of Mira Nair. From little domestic vignettes the director constructs a big-little film with moments where a giggle grows grim, right in front of our riveted eyes. The emotional control of the narrative is exceptional.
The support provided to the film's frail yet strong narrative by dialogue writer Mudassar Aziz, is beyond substantial. The words, especially those spoken by narrator Shiny Ahuja convey deep home truths with a throwaway casualness. You smile and you sob almost simultaneously as Kriya's life as a professional, a mother and a woman in love (in that order) come together in a fluent and virile clasp. The film's deeper thrusts on life and death emerge effortlessly from the rhythms of the routine. Indeed there are so many endearing moments in the narration that you wonder if the warmth of lived-in emotions comes from the characters or their ability to be true to ambience that they represent.
The film has a charming ensemble of actors, instilling optimum conviction in the plot without losing their innate charm as stars of substantial longevity. As contrasting twin sisters Moushumi Chatterjee comes into her own after ages. As for Shiney his tentative eyes filled with the pain of a tragedy that paints his past and threatens to colour his future, and his coming out of his self-imposed shell is mapped by the actor in fine and sharp strokes. A special word for the boy, Julian Burkhardt, who plays Sushmita's son. The boy's winsome personality is so understated, you wonder if actors are made from their childhood. But it's Sushmita Sen who holds you in a thrall. As a workingwoman struggling to remain chuckle-motivated as life comes and kicks her from behind, Sushmita makes you wonder once more. There's no one quite like her? If in her musical numbers she whips up a vigour that breaks your heart, in key emotional scenes she rips the screen apart with emotions that come straight from her guts.
After CHINGARI earlier this year Sushmita again pours a volcanic intensity into a role that would work with no other actor in the world. And a word for Sunidhi Chauhan's vocals. If Sushmita provides the body and soul to her part of a fiercely protective mother who will give a new life to her ailing son no matter what it takes, Sunidhi is the voice that caresses the actress's soul… and then she's gone!
In a year that's cluttered with remarkable films, Tanuja Chandra has emerged with a work that lodges itself in your heart.
But I wonder if it would've worked so well without the amazing Ms Sen!