BOTTOM LINE: An Excessively Syrupy Tale About Legacy and Ambition
|Platform: Netflix||Genre: Drama|
What Is the Story About?
Rustom Café, the Mumbai-based Irani café owned by a Parsi family, has a legacy of its own and is all set to celebrate its 100th anniversary soon. Diana Irani, the single parent to a 20s something boy Rumi, is committed to handing over the reins of the café to her reluctant son in a matter of time. But Rumi seems to have other ideas and nurses an ambition to become an actor. He’s already fallen in love with another film aspirant Mallika Chopra, with whom he intends to live with. Expectedly the idea doesn’t go well with his mom, but Rumi is in no mood to compromise. Even as Mallika’s career takes off, Rumi has to put up with frequent audition rejections. When it comes to a point where he has to choose between his legacy and long-cherished ambition, what would be Rumi’s call?
Manisha Koirala brings in her experience to play the role of an indulgent, pushy mom and underplays it well – the portrayal is sweet rather than irritating for the same reason. Prit Kamani is a breath of fresh air in the film, charming and poised at the same time. He lends an innocence to the portrayal and gives it all while playing the role of a confused boy who is yet to find his purpose and true calling in life. Nikita Dutta deserved a better role than being an epitome of Bollywood’s idea of an ambitious modern-day woman. Shirley Setia has a good screen-presence, though the poorly written role doesn’t give much scope to explore the performer in her. Javed Jaffrey is funny in parts, but one gets a feeling he’s getting repetitive with every outing.
Maska, with a story peppered with dollops of nostalgia and the good-old battle between legacy and ambition, had everything in it to be a sweet, feel-good watch on a chilly weekend evening. But the world in this digital film is built around a pile of clichés. There’s no cake beneath the icing and the material is so sugarcoated that you may turn diabetic after watching it. Surprisingly, a film where the protagonist is repeatedly reminded of the passion and sentimentality surrounding a 100-year-old bakery Rustom Café is bereft of emotion.
It’s hard to imagine a film that celebrates the Maska Bun and its food so much forgets to make its frames as mouth-watering. Perhaps the makers needed to have caught a glimpse of the Malayalam film Salt and Pepper or the Nivin Pauly-starrer Premam to know how deliciously can a frame be filled with food or the joy associated with making it. Unlike Pankaj Kapoor’s Chaplin-esque tribute Happi that also chronicled the legacy of a famous café through the eyes of a changing Mumbai with so much passion and sweetness, Maska isn’t quite clear what it wants to be.
The supernatural touch to the film comes from the protagonist’s visions of his dead father. The toilet-humour, Aadhaar card jokes between the father and the son barely spring up a smile. It’s pointlessly sentimental and cinematic for a mother to gift his son everything that his father had worn or used in the past on his every birthday. The protagonist was no wrong when he conveyed his frustration about being a ‘chalta phirta museum’. It’s hard to feel for a protagonist who has no conviction for his dream – he conveniently calls his acting ambition a delusion when it’s clear that he hasn’t tried hard enough.
The documentary filmmaker-angle to the film is a good reason to take a nostalgic trip of the bakery – but Maska uses it as an excuse to become excessively syrupy. The romance between Rumi and the filmmaker Persis Mistry lacks any passion and while the love story with Mallika is manipulative at best. Ironically, the film tells that the world is full of beautiful stories and yet, it fails to tell one simple story engagingly. The female characters are mere cardboard-tropes here – one’s an indulgent mom, one’s an ambitious woman (an excuse for a divorcee?), one’s a sweet (read brainless) girl.
Neither does Maska do justice to the representation of the Parsi community in the entertainment space nor does it work as a solid coming-of-age drama – it’s a film where the individual bits fail to come together as a whole.
Music and Other Departments?
The composers Raheja Akshay, Mikey McCleary and Ketan Sodha put up a good show with the music – it’s relieving to see a filmmaker trust in the ability of a song to take the story forward in times where they’re considered ‘excess baggage’ in a film. Eeshit Narain, the cinematographer, rings in enough vibrancy and nostalgia to the visuals that the story needs but fails to bring enough taste to the frames involving food. The dialogue falls short of flavour and the absence of wit in the supposedly humourous sequences hurts Maska.
Prit Kamani and Manisha Koirala’s performances
The vibrant music
Poorly established characters
Lacks emotional depth
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur
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