How many ways are there to say those immortal words, ‘I love you’? A myriad. From the ‘I don’t have to say it: you know I do’ to ‘I will say it as many times I have breath’. Until I don’t.
‘Pyaar vyaar’. Love ‘shuv’. Or something like that. Whichever you slice it, it’s what keeps us going, right along the spectrum—from the long-marrieds-fighting-deadly-ennui, to the first-flush-oh-my-god-is-she-really-looking-at-me—and the in-betweens.
Yashwant Batra (Mishra) and Kiran (Khanna) are going about their duties as a much-married, much-harried couple, the former bringing the bread in, the latter keeping house, and being parents to spirited young woman Preeti (Raghuvanshi), who has a yen for a neighbourhood fellow (Jha).
Some of the film is pleasing in the way it brings out the dull familiarity that plagues a well-excavated relationship, and both Mishra and Khanna feel sufficiently lived in. He has a middling job, and a ratty scooter; she belongs to a wealthier family which owns several large four wheelers and a spoilt male sibling.
Things are getting along, with duties to the fore, till one day Yashwant’s refusal, or inability, to say those three crucial words, or, even more crucially, act upon them, brings about a crisis. He belongs to that breed which believes its not in the saying but the doing: he gets his salary home, doesn’t he? He drinks only at home, doesn’t he? What more can a ‘dharm-patni’ want?
The contrast is set up, with both the younger couple, who are biding their time to declare their till-now clandestine love, as well as another: a loving husband(Tripathi) looking for succor for his ill wife, both of whom with no difficulty in expressing their affection.
As a set-up, and that too in picturesque Varanasi, the NFDC-produced Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain, has much promise, because it tries to examine the complex feelings which keep a marriage afloat, and how long-time partners dance around daily-ness and disappointments.
The principal characters are believable—Batraji (nice to see Mishra leading from the front) with his irascible chip on both shoulders, long-suffering wife Kiran (the expressive Khanna, who is suddenly everywhere) who yearns for something more, the cheerful neighbor with a big heart (Kala, always worth your time), the man who is devotedly tending to his sick wife (the marvellous Tripathi in a near-walk on role which feels all too brief ), Raghuvanshi (so good in Titli) and Jha, lending able support.
But the film is plagued with some amount of staginess. Parts of it feel overstated, rather than subtly touched upon. And there’s a distinct dip when Batraji goes looking for ways to do ‘pyaar ka izhaar’. For a film attempting to subvert the standard notions of young Bollywood love, to take recourse in the very same tropes, is a slide.
But, and I will say this with deliberation, it’s nice to see films focusing on men and women in middle age, and their needs and desires. Meanwhile, say it, whether it is in ‘angrezi’ or Hindi, or any other language you wish to use, because, hey, ‘yeh dil always maange more’.