This is probably one of the most inappropriately named movie one could find. There is one scene early in the narrative where Kabir (Anirudh Tanwar), a twenty-something Delhi boy prefers to eat rajma-chawal with a spoon while his father (Rishi Kapoor) insists on eating the same using his hands. This absurd analogy intends to draw the parallel between the two generations and the rest of the film has no relevance to the title of the movie. Also, we finally have a poor film starring one of the Khurrana brothers who have otherwise had a stellar year. But Aparshakti Khurana is not the only talented actor wasted in this film.
Rishi Kapoor has done two films this year that follow an eerily similar template – a story of a father-son duo where the father attempts to bridge the gap between the two and bring purpose and joy in his son’s life. While he played the son in 102 Not Out, here he is the father who is convinced (as is everyone else involved with the film, it seems) that having the right reasons justifies you committing cyber crimes that deserve strict punishment from the law. There is something else that is common between the two movies. Rishi Kapoor is by far the best thing in both the films. The best moments in the film come from the innocence he transcends in his depiction of a lonely father. The fear of losing his son feels real and had the film dealt with his character better, it could have been a manageable watch of an old man struggling to understand his son’s philosophy of life.
In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have Rishi Kapoor of 102 Not Out and Rajma Chawal pitted against each other given how grossly the other actors disappoint this immensely likeable actor in both the films. In Rajma Chawal, though, Leena Yadav seems to be too invested to give her film a “modern” look, which she tries to do at the expense of any significant character development.
It could have worked had this film managed to do that well. But her understanding of youth comes straight out of the Befikre universe. The youth of this country is not only about befriending unknown people on Facebook. An opinionated girl who settles for unconventionality would not kiss a stranger in public just to dodge her ex.
These are convenient stereotypes that Yadav finds in her film to take the narrative forward. These stereotypes are also the reason why Seher (Amyra Dastur) can never become what Vicky as a character became in Manmarziyaan. Both these characters are rebels without a cause, both carry an aura of aimlessness that boils into unapologetic bravado that yields little. But Vicky under a competent director and a terrific actor was a well-rounded character who conveyed his pain when he cried for Rumi. Seher’s cry for Kabir on the other hand never feels real.
As a Netflix original, Rajma Chawal does not ask for the prices of your ticket. It can be, in that sense, a movie you watch when you have nothing fruitful to do in life. But with the new season of Narcos waiting for you along with Manto that deserves a lot more of your time and attention, it is better to skip this rajma-chawal and focus on what your dinner table is offering you tonight.
Now Streaming on Netflix.