“Ventilator” movie poster.

This is the third Indian film I have watched in the last 11 years that is shot majorly inside a hospital and yet does not depress but instead cheers. Moreover, there is something to learn from each: “Shwaas” (2005), the Marathi film that was India’s nomination to the Oscars, “Vaada Raha… I Promise” (2009), the Hindi non-starter that was not at all marketed or released well and featured Bobby Deol and Kangana Ranaut, and now this one.

Needless to say, this film is the most entertaining of the three, with its subtle as well as biting satire; innumerable featured actors from Marathi cinema (many common to Hindi films) all acting phenomenally, though most are cast as per their images onscreen; a simply hilarious first half; and a fairly touching second one. At 127 minutes, the film grabs your emotional plexus, even if some crisp editing was needed in the last portions that could have shortened the length by possibly 10 to 15 minutes. The end is open, yet completely optimistic.

The film narrates the tale of one of the patriarchs of the huge Kamerkar clan, Gaja, suddenly suffering a stroke of sorts, and being admitted by his aspiring politician son Prasanna (Jitendra Joshi) to the best hospital in town. The film begins with Gaja’s nephew and celebrity director Raja Kamerkar (Ashutosh Gowariker), whom Gaja always loved and even mentored, showing his latest film in a preview theater to his lead actress Priyanka Chopra (playing herself) when a call comes to inform him about his uncle. Chopra advises him to leave, and he in turn makes several calls to relatives en route, including those in the village where they belong.

The Ganpati festival is around the corner, and everyone has their vested interests as they decide to reach Mumbai, knowing that their relative is critically ill. Many lament or are anxious about the forthcoming festival, as if the old man dies, there will be a period of mourning that will prevent them from celebrating the festival!

We see the superficial reasons: someone wanting to score in his precinct, because he is the local head of the festival committee that year; a couple of others wanting some settlements from the old man; Raja not wanting his aged father to come visit his brother, as he is not in the best of health; and even a person who wants to combine shopping in Mumbai for the festival with his visit! The relatives are even discussing how the old man should be kept on a ventilator till the festival is over, but the objection is that various people celebrate the festival for a varying number of days!

Slowly, amidst the fun and sarcasm, we come across the deeper edges: the reasons behind the friction between Gaja and his son Prasanna, the discord of sorts between Raja and his father, and the turnaround comes when a girl from the family who has married an American divorcée comes visiting with their offspring Pat, who has a small chat with Prasanna. Before that, Prasanna has had a spat with his party chief over some funds, and Raja has also suggested that he “talk it over” and sport out his differences and grievances of years with his comatose-of-sorts father before the ventilator is removed (as decided by then).

Delightful one-liners and insightful takes on life, culture, social hypocrisy and relationships make this film worth a watch, and, despite the crackling undercurrent of humor, there will be lumps in the throat and tears in the eyes of those susceptible. The sequence with Boman Irani seems a shade ludicrous at first, but, soon, the actor, playing a Parsi surgeon, instills some common sense into all the relatives. The twist at the end is wonderful and so is the post-climax, and this last sequence where eyes and body language score over mere words between father and son is beautifully done.

Rajesh Mapuskar shows a masterly control of his script, which goes a bit haywire and flaccid only in the last portions. He had done a fair job of his Hindi debut “Ferrari Ki Sawaari” in 2012, but improves upon it here. The music is limited but melodious, and Chopra has already sung a delightful promo version of the key song “Baba,” (not in the film) whose original is wonderful too. The background score is excellent, and the technical values good enough.

Gowariker, who last acted in the early ‘90s, seems to have evolved as an actor, because he comes across as so utterly natural onscreen that he does not seem to be conscious of any camera around. And, like we said, while everyone is brilliantly effective, the honors also go to Prof. Satish Alekar as Raja’s dad, Jitendra Joshi as Prasanna, and the actor who plays the doddering but determined old man, Tatya. Among the women, Sulabha Arya is terrific in the role of the harangued wife of Gaja, as is the woman who is obsessed with having her own toilet in her village home, and each one among the gossipy bunch of women relatives.

Skip the hyped Hindi cinematic headaches for once, and go watch this film that makes you love and cherish life and your loved ones all over again. Chopra and her mother may take a bow for making this therapeutic and sugar-coated pill wherein the sugar is as delicious as the medicine it conceals while being consumed.

Rating: ****

Purple Pebble Pictures and Zee Studios present “Ventilator” (Marathi)

Produced by: Dr. Madhu Chopra and Priyanka Chopra

Written and directed by: Rajesh Mapuskar

Music: Rohan-Rohan

Starring: Ashutosh Gowariker, Jeetendra Joshi, Satish Alekar, Viju Khote, Deepak Shrike, Sukanya Kulkarni, Achyut Potdar, Nikhil Ratnaparkhi, Usha Nadkarni, Jayant Gadekar, Sonamani Jayant Gadekar, Boman Irani, Nitin Jadhav, Vijay Nikam, Bhushan Telang and others

Sp. App: Boman Irani and Priyanka Chopra

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