Doordarshan review: Manu Rishi Chadha, Dolly Ahluwalia’s fine show not enough to lift this family comedy

Director Gagan Puri has an interesting plot but the dull screenplay hits like the bad signal that the national broadcaster often encountered in the past

Rating: 2 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

India’s strong family values stem from the respect Indians tend to have for their parents, elders. But that also gives rise to patriarchy/matriarchy. In traditional Indian households, the voice of the patriarch/matriarch is often the final word. The deep respect also carries a certain intimidating factor around the head of a family. May be, that explains why many Indian adults would be scared to have an open communication with the patriarch/matriarch.

Director Gagan Puri’s Doodarshan [2020] tells the tale of one such traditional family. Darshan Kaur [Dolly Ahluwalia] is no autocrat. She’s a woman who has woken up from coma after 30 years. The now old Kaur though is unaware of the time that has passed by. She is lied to by her son Sunil Bhateja [Manu Rishi Chadha] that it’s been only six months since she was a comatose patient. Sunil fears the reality of his wife Priya [Mahie Gill] seeking a divorce from him could have a devastating effect on her mother’s health especially since Kaur is very fond of Billo [nickname for Priya] since the latter’s school days. Kaur is unaware that Priya later got married to Sunil and gave birth to two kids.

Sunil recreates a 1989 in 2020. In the good old days, it was only national broadcaster that beamed through the idiot box. Sunil can’t recreate the popular soaps of the ’80s but he gets his children and their friends to create a fake Doordarshan news bulletin of the ’80s.

Puri has an interestingly premise but sadly the thin, dull screenplay doesn’t do justice to its promising tale. The cast does a fine job, but the writing just doesn’t build enough engagement. The events in the climax begs the question, what was all the fuss about? The film tells us that may be we are too respectful of, too intimidated by our parents that we have a fixed image of them. Despite the blood ties, not many children can have an open communication with their parents.

Doordarshan [2020] was promoted as a comedy that would trigger the ’80s, ’90s nostalgia for the couch potatoes. Back then, Doordarshan was the lone TV channel. Its consumption was akin to a prayer, a ritual. However, the national broadcaster is just a tiny part of the story. You do question why is it titled Doordarshan? Well, trying to recreate a content that was aired long back in history, that’s Puri’s definition of Doordarshan.

Though not an engaging screenplay, the film is likable for the since efforts of its cast, led by Manu Rishi Chadha and the veteran Dolly Ahluwalia. His marriage is on the rocks with his wife demanding that he signs on the divorce papers. He’s often mocked at by his own children – Sunny [Shardul Rana] and Sweety [Archita Sharma], but Bhateja [Chadha] isn’t one to sulk 24 x 7. Bhateja is having a hard time trying to manage his disjointed family. and his best friend and landlord Goldy [Rajesh Sharma]. For a man who’s personal life is full of mess, Bhetja shows incredible composure. Chadha chips in with a measured performance.

Costume designer Dolly Ahluwalia had turned a new leaf in her career when she won praise for playing the jovial, bibulous mother in Vicky Donor [2012]. The whiskey is back again but Ahulwalia also adds more age and maturity to her performance.

Young Shardul Rana, best known for playing brother to Bhumi Pednekar and Ayushmann Khurrana in Dum Laga Ke Haisha [2015] and Badhaai Ho [2018] respectively. shows his metal again in a family film. There is no real chemistry between Sunny and the landlord’s daughter Twinkle [Mehek Manwani]. Unheralded Archita Sharma though shows great promise with an energetic show.

What’s not cool though is a couple of shady characters – Sunny’s best mate the pervert Pappy [Sumit Gulati] and Sweety’s pal Bunty [Aditya Kumar]. Gulati has been around for few years, and just by placing a ‘BOY’ cap on his head doesn’t make him look like a collegian. Aditya Kumar’s stuttering avatar is yet another cliched insensitive portrayal of people with speech deficiency.

Mahie Gill starts off with a heavy Punjabi accent but then strangely goes back to her usual self. Gill’s made a career by quarreling with her reel husband in the Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster franchise. However, the discord here seems more like lover’s quarrel. There’s no real bitterness between Priya and Sunil. So, you wonder why would the woman seek divorce?

Although just a tad under two hours, Doordarshan gets a little exhaustive. You wouldn’t fault the cast, but it’s the average writing, the dull screenplay that breaks the deal for Doordarshan. Today, the national broadcaster struggles to get much eyeballs, but we hope Gagan Puri’s film gets a better reception.

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