Star cast: Shabana Azmi, Goldy Notay, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Sally Hawkins, Jimi Mistry.
Plot: Shabana is a Punjabi widow who is keen to get her overweight daughter, Goldy, married off to a suitable boy. When prospective grooms and their families reject Goldy, Shabana starts killing them. The ghosts of the murdered people help Shabana find a groom for Goldy.
What’s Good: Performances of the actors, some comic dailogues.
What’s Bad: The unreasonable script.
Verdict: Hai! Boredom se marjawaan! Disaster.
Loo break: Plenty, especially in the last 30 minutes.
Bend It Films, Indian Films and Studio 18’s Hai Marjawaan! (UA; dubbed) is the story of a Punjabi widow, Mrs. Sethi (Shabana Azmi), who lives in London with her grown-up daughter, Roopi (Goldy Notay), and son, Jazz (Ray Panthaki). She is desperate to get her daughter married off to a suitable boy, for which several meetings with prospective grooms and their families are arranged by her and even her friends. But somehow, the guys and/or their families end up rejecting Roopi mainly because she is overweight. Frustrated, Mrs. Sethi one by one starts killing the people who reject her daughter. The London police is baffled by these strange deaths of Asians. An investigation soon begins and it is headed by Smythe (Mark Addy).
Here, the ghosts of the people murdered by Mrs.Sethi unite and, instead of seeking revenge, they actually help Mrs. Sethi find a suitable match for Roopi. They get lucky when police officer Murthy alias Raj (Sendhil Ramamurthy) takes an interest in Roopi once they meet at an official dating event. Murthy is actually a family friend of the Sethis but the dating begins only after the event. Interestingly, only Mrs. Sethi can see and talk to the ghosts.
Meanwhile, Roopi’s friend, Gitali alias Linda (Sally Hawkins), a foreigner, is to get married to an Indian, Dev (Jimi Mistry). Gitali has psychic powers and senses the presence of spirits around Mrs. Sethi. Murthy has been asked by his seniors to spy on Roopi as she is a suspect in the murder cases. After dating Murthy, Roopi loses her cool when she realises that he is tapping her conversation.
Things go out of hand at the wedding of Gitali and Dev when Gitali manages to capture the spirits, because of which the police gets a good lead in the murder cases.
What happens to Roopi and to her mother? Does Roopi ultimately get a suitable guy to marry? Is the police able to nab the murderer? These and other questions are answered in the last part of the drama.
Paul Mayeda Berges and Gurinder Chadha’s story is rather unbelievable. No harm in that except that the comedy which is created in the improbable drama will evoke laughter only among the class audience, that too in the earlier part of the film. The last about 30 minutes of the drama are more serious and even verbose. The ghosts being shown as benign instead of vengeful, and helping the very lady who was responsible for making them ghosts looks rather weird. Of course, the writer has tried to justify their helpful stance but it just doesn’t appeal. No doubt, there are some comic scenes but the fun element comes more from dialogues (Berges and Chadha) than from the screenplay (Berges and Chadha), making the film predominantly class-appealing.
Besides, the film moves on a single track, making the proceedings monotonous and slightly boring after a while. Romance is minimal and doesn’t gladden the heart. Likewise, emotions absolutely fail to touch the heart even though it is a story of a mother’s concern for her daughter’s marriage. Comedy, as mentioned above, appeals to the classes more than the masses.
Shabana Azmi is good but there is nothing extraordinary about her role and her performance. Unfortunately for the actress, the audience has come to associate her name with only the excellent. Goldy Notay acts with aplomb and is very natural. Sendhil Ramamurthy acts very well and does justice to his role. Sally Hawkins is efficient. Jimi Mistry leaves a mark. Ray Panthaki is cute. As ghosts, Zoe Wanamaker (Mrs. Goldsmith), Sanjeev Bhaskar (the curry man), Shaheen Khan (the kebab woman), Adlyn Ross (the rolling pin woman) and Ash Varrez (the naan man) are entertaining. Mark Addy acts ably. The others lend the required support.
Gurinder Chadha’s direction is nice but, like her script, it doesn’t lift the drama from the ordinary. A thin section of the audience – the classes – may find the drama interesting and entertaining but the large mass base will not enjoy the proceedings. Music is fair and could’ve been better. Cinematography (Dick Pope) is good. Dubbing is very nice. Editing (Oral Nottie Ottey) is fairly good. Other technical values are upto the mark.
On the whole, Hai Marjawaan! is a very class-appealing film. It will do well in very select multiplexes in a couple of big cities but will not find any favour elsewhere. Resounding flop!
Released on 7-5-’10 at New Excelsior (matinee) and 32 other cinemas of Bombay by Studio 18. Publicity: good. Opening: poor. …….Also released all over. Opening was terribly weak everywhere. ……The film’s original English version, It’s A Wonderful Afterlife, has opened simultaneously. Its chances in a few multiplexes of the big cities are fair but overall, this version too will bomb at the box-office.