Angrezi Medium review: Irrfan Khan is satisfactory but Homi Adajania fails the ‘medium’ enterprise

The film promises to challenge set norms but then flatters to deceive. Irrfan Khan, Deepak Dobriyal’s respectable show not enough to lift this dull drama that doesn’t stay true to its progressive spirit

Rating: 2 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

You learn from mistakes, but how often do we bother to learn from success. Buoyed by success, often filmmakers have a tendency to throw up sequels. History has shown us that many have disappointed. The most recent example is that of Maddock Films, Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal [2020], the spiritual successor to their 2009 romantic drama bearing the same title.

Maddock Films appear to be in franchise mode as after Love Aaj Kal [2020], they have Angrezi Medium [2020] – not a sequel and not quite a spiritual successor to their 2017 hit satirical drama Hindi Medium. Nonetheless, it is a second offering by the ‘medium’ enterprise. And this time, the story goes from desi to videsi [foreign]. English is integral to the plot, but it’s the thirst for overseas education that forms the base for the second chapter in the ‘medium’ franchise.

Hindi Medium [2017] was the brainchild of Saket Chaudhary, but it is Homi Adajania who dons the director’s hat in Angrezi Medium. There are a host of writers attached to this story – Bhavesh Mandalia, Gaurav Shukla, Vinay Chhawal, and Sara Bodinar. Irrfan Pathan, Deepak Dobriyal, Tillotama Shome are the only survivors from the first film. Angrezi Medium [2020] though is a new story with new characters.

The premise is fairly similar. A father’s struggle to get her daughter admission to a top ‘English’ educational institute. In Hindi Medium [2017], it were the parents who decide the school, while here, it is the teen daughter who seeks admission to a top London college.

Champak Bansal [Irrfan Khan] vows to move the world to fulfill his daughter Tarika’s [Radhika Madan] dreams. The confectioner from Udaipur though has to endure many obstacles. On the face of it, Angrezi Medium [2020] appears to follow the same journey as the original. However, it’s not a spiritual successor. Why do we say so? At the heart of this story lies a subdued desire to break-free from patriarchy. The Marwari community is perceived to be conservative with many households not encouraging their women to work. Often women are married off early and have to settle being a homemaker.

Champak loved his wife dearly, but he casually shrugged her desire for further education. The lady didn’t live long. The widower Champak doesn’t want his daughter to go the same way but he’s also scared at the prospect of living without her for three years. Champak has been confused all his life. And this confusion follows him to United Kingdom, too, where Champak turns into a helicopter parent.

The beauty of Hindi Medium [2017] was its clear narrative. There it was all about exposing the commercialization of education in India. Indians are in no position to cast aspersion over the education system in the United Kingdom. Any such thoughts would have made Angrezi Medium a poor clone. The chaos in Hindi Medium was a direct result of Raj Batra [Irrfan Khan] resorting to tricks to help his little daughter Pia [Dishita Sehgal] get admission to a top Delhi school . In Angrezi Medium, the chaos is mostly down due to Champak and Gopi’s [Deepak Dobriyal] poor angrezi (English). In the early part, the duo are sparring over the sole rights to the Ghasetaram sweets title. Once they land in England, they end up as victims of their ignorance. Save for outbidding the English at an auction, that strangely entitles the winner to a seat at Truffard college, neither Champak nor Gopi come up with any trick that can help Tarika get admission.

Unfortunately, the troubles of Champak and Gopi take the focus away from the primary goal. Angrezi Medium promises to challenge set norms but then flatters to deceive. It begs the question. Did Homi Adajania really have a story at his disposal?. The confused narrative goes against the spirit of the franchise. The final outcome presents a danger of Angrezi Medium being eventually labelled as regressive.

The first half is fairly engaging but the screenplay goes for a toss post interval. As a viewer, you are looking for certain logical reasoning to the events that unfold straight after interval. Some characters just pop out of nowhere. Champak and Gopi are deported on their first arrival to England. Few days later, they sneak into England illegally via Dubai under the fake identities of Saqlain Musthaq and Abdul Razzak. Thankfully, the writers don’t lose sight of bio metrics. After a promising first half, the flaky screenplay quickly turns Angrezi Medium into a chaotic, boring drama. Just 30 odd minutes into the second half and you are praying for this chaos to end soon. Four writers, one director, all fail to stitch a bearable second half screenplay.

The saving grace is the admirable show by Khan and Dobriyal. The former continues to battle for his life. It’s indeed commendable for Irrfan to have shot for the film after returning from his cancer treatment in UK last year. Having being brought up in Rajasthan, Irrfan is a natural with the accent. May be the weak screenplay and the physical stress of the long treatment perhaps shows on his face in the latter half of the film. Deepak Dobriyal though is hilarious and it is his natural wit that keeps you entertained.

Usually, she is bubbly and boisterous, but we see a slightly subdued, restrained Radhika Madan. She’s stressed hard on acquiring the soft tone. For a teenager striving to study in United Kingdom, Tarika appears less confident. The girl from Udaipur is taken aback by the cultural shift. “This is not India. There are no servants here. We wash our own dish,” Tarika’s London-based friend Advait tells her. The cultural shift though toughens Tarika. Perhaps, a tad unconvincing, but Madan discovers a softer side to her through Angrezi Medium.

Thus far, it’s been all about Champak, Gopi and Tarika. Where does Kareena Kapoor Khan fit in to this story? The seasoned actress plays Naina Kohli, a British cop who shares a frosty relationship with her mother [played by Dimple Kapadia]. For Adajania, Naina and her mother embody the frail relationships in the West. While this frosty mother-daughter relationship impacts Champak, but Adajania is guilty of generalizing the concept of relationships, family values in the West. Kareena Kapoor is academic but it’s the veteran Kapadia who impresses as the no-nonsense, grumpy old lady.

Ranvir Shorey starts off as a amusing pretentious Non Resident Indian character Bobby [earlier Bablu] but that arrogance, drama is short lived. You expect some genuine humour from him, but the quick change in fortunes turn Bobby into another dull character. The most disappointing of the lot though has to be Tony [Pankaj Tripathi] the shady, effeminate dubious agent from Dubai. Tripathi looks a total misfit for the character. TV star Kiku Sharda is wasted in an inconsequential role.

It’s the sincere efforts of Irrfan Khan and Deepak Dobriyal alone who prevent Angrezi Medium from being a disaster. But their show is not enough to cover the faulty narrative. The franchise was created by Saket Chaudhary and Maddock Films clearly missed his presence. Chaudhary couldn’t have worked miracles, but he sure would brought some respectability to Angrezi Medium. After passing with distinction in Hindi Medium, Maddock Films have failed in Angrezi Medium. Dinesh Vijan perhaps needs to re-examine his franchise model.

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