Arbeena & Asif Khan
“DESTINED for greatness, stuck in mundaneness” believes Rumi Irani, a young Parsi guy caught between his dream to become an actor and his mother’s wish of a famous Maskawaala (Baker) just like his late father.
The movie, Maska, is a latest Hindi Nextflix drama set in a Parsi community in Mumbai. It has been written and directed by Neeraj Udhwani, starring Manisha Koirala (Diana Irani), Javed Jaffrey (Rustom Irani), Prit Kamani (Rumi Irani), Shirley Setia (Pristine Mistry) and Nikka Dutta (Mallika Chopra).
Parsis, an ethnic term for those who migrated to India from Persia a millennium ago, have been central to Mumbai’s history and development over the decades. Parsi cafès in Mumbai have been popular for their delicious and divine cuisine- Sali Boti, Chicken Berry Pulao, Akuri, Bun Maska, Iranian Chai, Patra Ni Machchi, Dhansak. However, both Parsis and their culture rich food culture are currently facing challenges due to its dwindling population and the little interest from newer generation to take over the family owned businesses. From over 400 Parsi café scattered across Mumbai, just handful of them exist now.
In the movie, Rumi’s mother, Diana, wants Rumi to take over their once upon a time famous “Cafè Rustom” and revive its Iranian legacy & charm that has faded away since his father’s death (Javed Jaffrey). However, Rumi finds it primitive and is determined to make his future in acting.
The director, Neeraj Udhwani, has been the writer of critically acclaimed short films-Aamad and Rewind. Apart from being the writer of the episodes of TV series- Gumrah End Of Innocence, he has also written the screenplay of ‘Mere Dad Ki Maruti’ and ‘Dil Toh Bacha Hai Ji’.
Maska literally means buttering and metaphorically indicates flattering someone in common language. However, Maska movie doesn’t go smoothly as maska. The theme of the movie doesn’t relate to its title.
Initially, it seems to be the breakaway journey of Rumi; who goes on to transform his dream into reality with passion. But later on disheartens us by simply saying “There’s a difference between dream and delusion”. This weak and uninspiring storyline makes the movie quite predictable and less engrossing. The movie could have highlighted the current challenges of Parsi community in an inspiring and extraordinary manner, and not at the cost of fulfilling one’s dream.
In the movie, Manisha Koirala stands out in her acting, while Javed Jaffrey, in spite of having a little presence on screen, has added some spice by playing the role of a dead father visible only to his son. On the other hand, the protagonist’s acting doesn’t appear strong and hence, not able to create much impact. Apart from getting caught between his career, he seems to struggle between his mother and his girlfriend (Nikki Dutta) as well.
Believing in “People are stories”, Shirley Setia playing the role of Rumi’s neighbour & friend, who appears innocent and somewhat immature, catches the attention with her “Ikigai” (Japanese concept meaning a reason for being) and her book on Cafè Rustom. Other than that, she sweeps away easily on screen.
Nikki Dutta playing the role of Rumi’s girlfriend, on the other hand, is independent, ambitious and bold in her character. However, her Punjabi accent in between few dialogues sounds spurious. Also, one of her dialogues “Vivekananda hadn’t sold his father’s cafè at least!” sounded dotish.
The movie has shown the three women as accessories to the main protagonist, who can’t stand on his own, and relies on the opinions of these women in his journey. The screenplay looks incomplete, lazy, and not so appealing. The director seems to be interested only in the delicacies. The background music, too, doesn’t go well with the scenes. Lyrics of the songs are not catchy and sound boring throughout, except the line “Baby smile ho aisi, jaise bun pe maska”.
In spite of several flaws in the movie, it does contain some emotional and heart-warming scenes such as those showing the bond of local people with Cafè Rustom; their never-ending love for its delicious Bun Maska and Irani Chai. Their nostalgic stories associated with the cafè surely takes the heart away. The close-up shots of delicious Parsi cuisine makes one’s mouth salivate.
To conclude, Maska has dropped the quality of Netflix which is known for its gripping and out of the box movies. Maska is fatuous, shallow, and definitely not worth watching.
Reviewers are the students of Mass Communication & Journalism, University of Kashmir.
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