Milan Talkies Review

Actors Ali Fazal (right) and Shraddha Srinath in a still from “Milan Talkies.” The film presents a timeworn saga of love between aspiring filmmaker Anu (Fazal) and Maithili (Srinath). (photo provided)

Torque presents Filmy Keeda Productions’ “Milan Talkies”

Produced by: P.S. Chhatwal

Directed by: Tigmanshu Dhulia

Written by: Tigmasnhu Dhulia & Kamal Pandey

Music: Rana Mazumder & Akriti Kakar

Starring: Ali Fazal, Shraddha Srinath, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Ashutosh Rana, Reecha Sinha, Sikander Kher, Sanjay Mishra, Deepraj Rana and others

It is time that Tigmanshu Dhulia takes time off from his filmmaking, and from starring in mostly weird films, and study mainstream Indian cinema and its greats. Maybe then he will understand what makes a classic entertainer connect with audiences.

We will grant it that the commercial failure of his extremely gritty “Haasil” (2003) – without doubt, his best film to date – may have put the filmmaker in Dhulia permanently off-kilter. For, from his subsequent films, “Paan Singh Tomar” was a critics’ delight, though the second half was devoid of content and was stretched like a flaccid rubber band. “Raag Des” (2017) was a decent watch but with zero appeal to audiences seeking value-for-money. His wonderful “Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster” (2011) also failed commercially, though its cult value later led to two disastrous sequels. “Shagird” was clearly stark and thus not box-office material, and the less said of his remaining films, ESPECIALLY “Bullet Raja” the better.

In short, Dhulia has failed to find that perfect mean between commerce and quality, and thus (though he claims he never said it) his dismissal of the recent hit “Total Dhamaal” as “trashy” is very “sour grapes”-ish. So we indeed wonder why he thought of making “Milan Talkies,” planned almost a decade back and reportedly first with Shahid Kapoor, as a “tribute” to our commercial classics.

What we get is a weary, timeworn and very stretched and absurd saga of love between aspiring filmmaker Anu (Ali Fazal) and Maithili aka Janak Kumari (Shraddha Srinath) based in the Allahabad of 2010. Class barriers are not the disputing point here, but the hero’s profession is, as she is the daughter of a pandit (Ashutosh Rana). His progressiveness is restricted to educating his daughter so that she can be married off. But the rather academically dense Maithili needs to cheat in her exams to get good marks.

And guess who helps? Anu, who also is into the business of ‘cheating’ by helping such people! In the process, they fall in love, but instead of Anu asking for her hand, they decided to elope. But Maithili’s people, helped by local goon Guru Panda (Sikandar Kher) catch up, shoot and wound Anu, who still manages to escape.

Maithili is then married off to Guru, who lives in her father’s house but ill-treats her. No one knows what has happened to Anu, not even his buddies, but he makes it big in Mumbai as a film director by 2013 and returns to shoot his film in his hometown. He has never forgotten his love, and she too pines for him and wants out of a bad marriage. But her people will not relent, and neither will Guru. So Anu and she, after developments that are inane and ennui-inspiring for us, decide to run away again, and again there is a chase.

This time, the girl’s father is on their side, and they escape. And without a clear resolution (a must for such films, Dhulia-saab) we get a sudden “happy ending.”

Like with all such films and their filmmakers, they really score high in illogic, unlike in well-made mainstream masala films wherein the illogic is presented in a specific way. We wonder why the lovebirds could not elope by train or plane or road and needed the waterways both the times! And in both cases, we find that the final escape is by train anyway, that too by boarding a speeding train from a bridge!

We fail to fathom how Guru does not accost Anu’s parents, comprising of a failed actor (Tigmanshu himself, scoring as actor) and his wife in the time Anu is away, and he wants to “cut him into pieces.” Earlier, Anu tells Maithili that he will do anything to win her love, but cannot even acquire the guts to ask for her hand in marriage from her father, who owes him one because he has helped her “pass” and thus, according to the pandit’s belief, actually made her ready for marriage!

The goon beats Maithili at home, but cannot touch her in the presence of her father! There are even worse sequences – like the way Anu sends a message to her via his film (!!!), the way the projectionist allows a love-nest in the theatre’s projection room for the two, and the bordering-on-imbecility reasons why the two lovebirds persist in misunderstanding each other. We use this term “lovebirds” for a reason – their actions are generally bird-brained!

The technical values are average, one song “Holi Hai” sounds good in the film but is forgotten later, and the writing is very much below-par. Dhulia thus cannot rustle up any meat in his direction.

Ali Fazal is sincere but routine. Shraddha Srinath only has moments, and like her Southern colleagues, quicksilver expressions. Kher hams so does Ashutosh Rana. There is another Rana in the film – Deepraj Rana. His track is not only superfluous but, frankly, nutty.

And in the final analysis, it is better to avoid “Milan” with such “Talkies.”

Rating: *1/2

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