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Manisha Koirala's Netflix film ‘Maska’ could have been better with more spice, less sugar

Watch 'Maska' without expecting a moon and you would be fine with what plays on the screen.

March 30, 2020 / 10:25 AM IST
Image: Twitter/@NetflixIndia

Image: Twitter/@NetflixIndia

A boy wants to leave his family business behind and instead live-in with his struggling actress girlfriend. The mother revolts, only to relent soon after. The boy wants to sell his legacy, a century old Irani restaurant, and instead invest this money in producing a film for himself. The mother revolts, only to relent soon after.

Of course, one may say that a 'mother's heart is after all a mother's heart'. However, when the demands made by a boy who is not yet a man are so irrational, one expects a mother to put her foot down, give some rationale and instil some sense in her child.

None of this happens in case of Maska. As a result, this 'maska' turns out to be way too sweet, when a bit of a spice could have given it a bit of a 'chatka'.

That said, Maska turns out to be a totally edible weekend watch by virtue of it being 'Made for Netflix' affair.

While this kind of a film would not stand a chance in theatres, it could find good audience on the small screen as it is by and large a harmless watch.

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For the first time, feature film director Neeraj Udhwani, the release timing has turned out to be good. The nationwide lockdown has resulted in binge watching being the order of the day, as a result of which Maska is already trending at the top spot.

At its core, this is a feel good affair and though Koirala's characterisation as a mid-40s woman attached to her Parsi roots is as clichéd as it gets, you do not mind that as there are smiles right through, especially in the first half and then towards the climax.

This means all Parsis are shown as gentle souls. They are well connected to each other, expect their kids to follow the tradition, run Irani restaurants all over Mumbai, wear traditional attire — both at home and at work, and yes, invite Boman Irani as the chief guest for major events.

While the stage is set for Maska with Koirala looking forward to her son Prit Kamani (who made his debut with Sooraj Barjatya's production Hum Chaar last year and shows promise just like Kartik Aaryan did in his early days) take over her late husband's (played by Javed Jaffrey) Rustom Cafe and prepare the 'world's best bun-maska', the youngster wants to try his luck in films. Now even if that means countless auditions and going totally naked for one such outing, so be it.

He finds a companion in Nikita Dutta (who made her presence felt quite strongly as Shahid Kapoor's intermittent girlfriend in Kabir Singh), a gorgeous young woman whose character is presumably a little older than him and is happy to climb up the ladder of web series before making it big in the movies.

In the midst of these characters there is another Parsi girl, Shirley Setia (singer-turned-actress who would see her big screen launch with Nikamma later this year, and has a rather cute persona), who is happy to interact with the mother-son duo in order to put together her coffee table book on the Irani restaurant legacy. As the cliché would have it, a love triangle blooms in a while as well, albeit quite under-developed and also abrupt.

Nonetheless, you are willing to let go of such sudden shifts in developments since, at the heart of it, Neeraj ensures that there is a heart-warming narrative for most part of Maska.

Moreover, even though the film has food forming a major part of the storytelling, the most interesting parts are the ones focusing on Bollywood. Reminding one of Zoya Akhtar's Luck By Chance, these are the parts that also bring in humour and drama in good proportions, hence engrossing the audience. Moreover, the broker angle is quite entertaining and with good drama.

Now, had there been added drama in the proceedings, with things not quite having been as sugar-n-saccharine, Maska would have turned out to be more exciting. Of course, at the end of the day, it is a filmmaker's prerogative to tell the story the way they deems fit. Yet, as audience, you look forward to some added twists and turns, something that do not come. Watch it for some relaxed times without expecting a moon and you would be fine with what plays on the screen.

(Joginder Tuteja is a trade expert and film critic. Views are personal)
Joginder Tuteja
first published: Mar 30, 2020 10:25 am

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