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Friday, 22 September 2017

Mrs Scooter (2015)

While all eyes are trained on Amit Masurkar's Newton and Rajkummar Rao today, I would like to draw your attention to Shiladitya Moulik's film called Mrs Scooter that stars Anjali Patil in the pivotal role. She is the girl who supports the stellar cast of Rao and Pankaj Tripathi in Newton as Malku. Ever since I've discovered her through Mrs Scooter, I cannot not be wonder-struck at her nuanced approach to acting. She is critically acclaimed and immensely talented. This lissome dusky beauty is not just about looks. Her craft has the punches.

I don't get why critics found Mrs. Scooter depressing and devoid of hope. I thought it was an uplifting and a subtle love story that though in some parts might seem far-fetched but it's effective. Two stories, that of the new bride, and the scooter, are placed in a linear fashion so that we start identifying both as two kegs in the same wheel of things. It's as if the inaminate object is determining the path that the bride's life will take.

Shot entirely in Aligarh, the films revolves around the life of a new bride who accompanies her husband to the house where he puts up as a tenant. The day he gets married he also buys a blue scooter, signifying that he is embarking on a new journey in his life. The scooter becomes an intrinsic part of the couple's life that is drawn with minute precision by the director. Even as they reach the house, the landlady greets them and wants to know every single detail about the bride. A nosey parker of sorts, she also cracks crude jokes about intimacy that the bride finds rather strange, considering the lady hardly knows her. The couple slip into their own room and the bride immediately gets busy cleaning up the mess that the husband had left the place in. The bride is instrumental in altering the vibe of the room from a bachelor pad to a cosy home and the two settle into blissful domesticity. The scooter is also a big part of their lives, almost like a third member intertwining its life with the owners.

As the couple explore each other's personality and acquaints themselves with the whims of their character, the scooter helps them to come close to each other as well. In a tender moment, the husband and wife consummate their marriage after both get wet in the rain while bringing the scooter from outside to their room.
The wife is young and attractive and all her neighbours notice that. The vegetable vendor, Manu, the boys in the area and the landlord, a leering villain. But life goes on for everyone.
Fate delivers a cruel blow when one day the husband meets with a fatal accident. His scooter goes missing and the wife is left all alone to fend for herself. Her own family refuses to take her responsibility and she stays back as the tenant. But life spirals out of control. We do not see her grieving too much because she was yet to fall absolutely in love with her new husband. They were just beginning to know each other. But the circumstances break her down, from which she slowly tries to inch towards normalcy. She helps the landlady make pickles to earn some money.
Soon, the men around her make her feel extremely vulnerable, especially the landlord who even takes a few liberties knowing full well that this helpless girl is in no position to complain. The landlady, recognising that her own husband is an odious fiend, tries to marry the girl off to her own brother, but the widow isn't enthused.
The vegetable vendor has an eye for the widow but he expresses his affection very subtly. He carves
flowers out of beetroots and delivers them to her. In a weak moment, the widow has a face-off with the vendor. After that the story just gets too interesting for the widow and this vendor. And it's worth watching.
What I loved about the film was how unpretentious and simple it was. A love story, the plot is totally unique and charming. If one isn't too particular about the class divide, this is one romance that will stay in your mind for a long, long time.
There are several montages drawing parallels between the scooter and the bride. When she walks into her new home, she is oven fresh, pretty and coy. The scooter is also spanking new and sparkling. With time it gets weather-beaten just like how the bride slowly gets embroiled into domestic life and chores.
When the scooter goes missing, it harps on the fact that the girl's life goes haywire with no direction. Just like all and sundry are manhandling the scooter, robbing its parts at every opportune moment, the widow too finds her sanity and honour threatened under the lecherous and wicked gaze of her male neighbours.
Even towards the end, the scooter undergoes a makeover and gets a fresh lease of life. Similarly, the widow and her decision helps her sort the mess that her life had become. She gets ready to embark on yet another trip. And this time with someone she can trust and someone who has won her trust and love.
While I hardly knew any of the actors, I really thought the actor playing the vegetable vendor did a great job. Even though he was an unassuming and rustic man, there was something about his body language and expression that was very strong.
Anjali Patil is the reason why this film shouldn't be missed. She is a very pretty woman. But most importantly, she is fine actress. Today these young performers are making us sit up and take notice of how strong their signatures are. She reminded me a bit of Deepti Naval in Main Zinda Hoon and a lot of times of Smita Patil. That says a lot about this actor. There is a scene where the landlord purposely brushes against her bare back. The camera zooms in on Patil's face and you see her mortified with shame, fear and shock. Then towards the end she is seen putting on the pair of coloured lenses that her husband had once bought her. After his death she had just put it away. But now, with a new ray of hope in her life, she is willing to start afresh. As she looks into the mirror and looks at herself, her eyes belie that soft smile that says a thousand unsaid words. Of happiness, love and an aspiration for a better life.
I read one of Moulik's interviews where he said that he did not have the money to cast Priyanka Chopra in place of Anjali Patil. Well, let's just thank the almighty for that!!