Director: Anu Menon
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Kalki Koechlin, Rajat Kapoor, Arjun Mathur, Suhasini Maniratnam, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee
Director Anu Menon has clearly come a long way since her 2012 debut, London Paris New York. She ably sets most of her movie in the confines of a swanky, state-of-the-art private hospital in Kochi. Two people, Professor Shiv Natraj (Naseeruddin Shah) and Tara Deshpande (Kalki Koechlin) patiently wait everyday for their respective spouses to wake up from coma. While the one-liner idea sounds brilliant on paper, executing it in a full blown feature format takes talent. And, Menon is successful to a large extent.
Shiv’s wife of 40 years, Pankaja (Suhasini Maniratnam), has been in a coma since the last eight months. Shiv religiously visits her every day, while reading medical journals at home, hoping to find a cure. Newly-married Tara on the other hand, is a brash, foul-mouthed, social media savvy young girl who rushes to Kochi after she’s informed of her husband, Rajat’s (Arjun Mathur) car accident. And yet with such differences in age and characteristics, the two bond and develop a warm friendship over the vitals of their respective spouses.
Shiv’s undying love for Pankaja, who refuses to take her off life support despite the doctor’s (Rajat Kapoor) coaxing, is touching. As is his kindness towards the city girl Tara, who finds herself all alone. There’s a brilliant scene where Tara rants about having 1500 friends on Facebook and 5000 followers on Twitter and yet not having anyone by her side during a crisis, to which Shiv asks, “What is Twitter?” That scene instantly makes your lip curl into a guilty smile. There is another heartwarming scene where Tara is handed over her husband’s suitcase, and as she unpacks his luggage, she smells Rajat’s tee-shirt and then wears it. She even wears his watch in order to feel closer to him. And you smile when she throws on his oversized check-shirt on top of her tank top while visiting the hospital.
While Tara finds herself alone in a moment of crisis, Shiv finds help in the form of a neighbour who dutifully sends him dinner every night till his wife returns home. The screenplay (Menon and James Ruzicka), layered with such moments, makes you view life’s actual blessings. And it does so, without being preachy. Menon wonderfully maintains that thin line. Rajeev Ravindranathan as Rajat’s helpful, goofy colleague Girish and Ratnabali Bhattacharjee as Tara’s best friend, impress in their small roles. Shah is fantastic as usual, in his nuanced portrayal of the spirited, caring husband. Koechlin (with kohl eyes and tank tops) as Tara, competently portrays someone almost any urban woman can relate to. She’s a realist and in a moment of catastrophe her first question to the doctor is, “Will my husband die?” as opposed to Shiv, who lives in eternal hope and tries to convince the doctors that an operation could cure his wife. Kapoor shines in the scene where he gives a lesson to his junior on how to break the bad news to a patient’s family.
Humour blends with sadness beautifully in the film without making the script melodramatic. Like, how Shiv and Tara make fun of how the doctor’s go-to line is always, ‘The first 48 hours are crucial’. The scene where the duo lies on grass and passes a burning joint to each other while discussing about gender roles is well-written. Even with its crisp 90-minute runtime, the movie drags a bit during the second half. The writing could have been tighter post the interval. Overall, Waiting is a movie that teaches us how to remain positive even in the face of an adversity. A big thumbs up for the songs – Anushka Manchanda’s Tu hai toh main hoon and Kavita Seth’s Zara zara lingers with you for long. The movie’s ending is kept open-ended. Because Waiting was never about finding out what happens to the ailing spouses but about the journey of the two who patiently waited for them to recover.
(Note: The review was originally published in Filmfare on 27th May 2016)