Cast: Prit Kamani, Manisha Koirala, Nikita Dutta, Jaaved Jaafery, Shirley Setia
Director: Neeraj Udhwani
New Delhi March 27, 2020: An Irani cafe in Mumbai is waiting for revival through its once-famous item ‘bun-maska,’ which was its former owner Rustom’s (Jaaved Jaafery) specialty. His son Rumi (Prit Kamani) isn’t keen on taking up the family legacy despite his mother Diana’s (Manisha Koirala) requests.
Rumi wants to be an actor but he is probably not cut out for the film business as he couldn’t pick up simple steps and nuances. This forces him to think of alternate ways to fulfil his dream, and the easiest one is to sell his café and finance a film.
Manisha, as the affable yet feisty single mother, is very likeable from the very beginning. Her genuine happiness and Prit Kamani’s easy-go-lucky attitude hint that there might not be any overdose of emotions even later in the film.
Nikita Dutta’s Punjabi-heavy Hindi works as the filler, but you, somehow, know where all this is headed. It’s one of those slice of life stories that might slightly ease your burden but probably won’t remain with you for long. Like those Disney films where the viewers mostly care about the ‘cuteness’ quotient.
There are moments though. For example, when Dutta realises her loneliness in the pursuit of a better life and career. Her unhinged emotions don’t have any takers and you immediately understand director Neeraj Udhwani’s idea of combining the two worlds—one for the family and the other for excellence.
It’s not a new concept as the personal versus professional has spawned many ideas but most of the time, they work because of their intensity, which Maska lacks.
Similarly, Jaaved Jaafery’s excellent comic timing and ‘dead man’ jokes work but mostly in isolation. You would laugh but the energy wouldn’t be carried to the next scene.
Interestingly, it’s difficult to pin point any one actor for such a broken loop as all of them have done well individually, but they couldn’t manage to bring a little ‘extra’ collectively. Actually, what is missing is the sense of urgency. Everybody behaves as if they definitely know what’s about to happen.
However, there are areas where Maska doesn’t disappoint, like the nostalgia it evokes about the old Parsi buildings in South Bombay. These are the houses with amazing stories and characters, sometimes totally disconnected from the outside world that’s changing faster than their imagination.
These spaces, despite fading plasters, take pride in carrying history unknown to the new Mumbai. These are people who don’t treat the city as a potential goldmine but a part of their upbringing. The compassion and warmth are the hallmark of their presence. They form the city’s spirit and vice versa.
I wish the makers could have explored a bit more on that front. Maska could have been a different and engaging film if it had not fallen for the typical Bollywood tropes. It’s still good enough to help you sail through the total lockdown though.