By Saim Saeed
THERE’S A scene in Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi in which Boman Irani’s senile uncle, in love with Indira Gandhi, has Irani write a letter to her discussing his love and marriage arrangements. As Irani puts the letter in a folder already full, the audience can tell that this is a frequent occurrence. There’s nothing funny about advanced dementia, but in the mould of ‘old people in love — how cute’, anything juvenile, or really anything that old people do should be taken with condescending endearment.
The plot is simple (read thin). Farhad Pastakia (Irani), a middle-aged bra-and-panty salesman is still a bachelor, much to the chagrin of his controlling mother, played by Daisy Irani. He falls in love with Shirin (Khan), a community worker who drops by his shop looking for bras. The rest of the plot is largely irrelevant as the film focuses on the on-screen duo rather than the machinations taking place around them.
While the premises are weak — Irani isn’t married because of his job; Khan isn’t married because of a comatose father — and leave very little room for the actors to manoeuvre, the most excruciating miscalculation that the makers of Shirin Farhad have made is conflating what it means to be sexual with what it means to be sexy. The rather awful misconception tends to be that people who don’t look like Deepika Padukone tend to be asexual, and a movie that tries to upset that understanding is indeed welcome. This movie isn’t it. Both leads, Irani and Khan, exhibit too much sexiness and too little sexuality. Which is ironic, because despite the screen time devoted to Khan pouting and winking and basking in the rain — not to mention a shot of her fluorescent bra dancing in the dark — both leads are quite obviously virgins, making their courtship not look any different from a 13-year-old’s. When Khan declares Irani to be her boyfriend, the latter first blushes, and then they hug. In an absurd sequence, Irani mistakes being offered coffee in Khan’s home as a sign for sex. One ought to expect better from a 45-year-old. And that’s the crux: the movie poses as an elderly couple romance, while there is nothing elderly about the romance.
Both Irani and Khan hold the film and the audience’s attention together, for which they deserve credit. But unlike the bras that Khan buys from Irani, they’ve got very little to work with.