'Rajma Chawal' Review: Yadav’s brilliant direction fails to overcome the shortcomings of the screenplay

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

With the advent of internet the world started to shrink which brought everybody closer than ever. But at the same time it created new barriers. Leena Yadav’s Rajma Chawal, which recently released on Netflix, is an interesting attempt to examine this lack of communication between humans in the age of broadband. Consider an aging man living in New Delhi who has recently lost his wife in an accident. He decides to relocate to his family house in Old Delhi along with his son who is an aspiring musician. But the son resents his father’s decision to relocate because it not only means losing his friends but also the band he is a part of. He reluctantly obliges but becomes particularly resentful towards his father for leaving the memories of his mother behind. Soon the communication between them completely stops but the father is determined to mend their tenuous relationship. He sees a ray of hope when someone suggests him to use Facebook to reach out to his strenuous son. What ensues is a chain of interconnected events that try and remind us about the importance of relationships in our lives—an aspect of life which we often take for granted.

In making Rajma Chawal, Leena Yadav proves that her heart is in the right place. She seems committed to exploring the complexities of the human nature through her camera lens. Also, the screenplay co-written by Vivek Anchalia, Manu Rishi Chadha, and Yadav herself presents us with a panoply of interesting characters and even tries to delve into the back stories of some of them. While some of these characters are certainly believable, others appear a bit out of place. But that doesn’t deter Leena and team to knit together a series of incidents into a single story. It appears as if Vivek Anchalia, who is credited with the film’s original story, picked up these incidents randomly before once day he decided to collate them into a single story. In other words, Rajma Chawal is essentially a tale of tales. While it’s no mean feat to combine random incidents to give rise to one colorful tale, Rajma Chawal somewhere fails to present this assembly of tales in the most effective manner possible. As a result, the film not only appears disjointed at places but it also begins to look rather repetitive and clichéd towards the latter half.
The strongest aspect of Rajma Chawal is quite easily Rishi Kapoor’s seemingly effortless performance as the aging father. The veteran actor is so good in his role that he actually exposes the other actors around him, in particular Anirudh Tanwar, who plays the son. He is certainly not bad but falls short by some distance. Interestingly, Tanwar, a commercial pilot-turned-actor, is the son of the aviation mogul Gulab Singh Tanwar who is also one of the film’s producers. On the other hand, Amyra Dastur plays her rather implausible part reasonably well. Oscar-nominated cinematographer Donald McAlpine’s work is a major highlight of the film and complements Yadav’s direction really well which seems to be getting better with each film. Rajma Chawal would have been a memorable film had the acting (with the exception of Rishi Kapoor) and the screenplay managed to raise the bar as well.

Rating: 6/10

This review was first published in The Sunday Guardian.

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