Film: 'Hello Zindagi'; Cast: Mrunmayee Lagoo, Milind Gunajee, Kitu Gidwani, Neena Gupta, Kanwaljeet Singh; Director: Raja Unnithan; Rating: ** 1/2
A rebellious teenage daughter Kavita (Mrunmayee Lagoo) of a traumatised couple doesn't know what to do with her life. So she takes off on a journey away from home with a lonely, neglected but brave middle-aged woman to Goa where she saves turtles... and herself.
Kavita goes home redeemed. We are not so sure about ourselves. We remain partly involved but largely distanced from this ambitious but flawed look at life through the eyes of teen rebellion.
Director Raja Unninathan has his heart in the right place. He creates a world of gossipy, sweaty parties, tacky repartees and one-night stands for Kavita. But the words sound more like replications of the emotional outbursts associated with the generation gap rather than actual situations created in a specific crisis.
A more authentic parent-child crisis would be the one in 'Wake Up Sid' or better still the television soap 'Ladies Special' where two very talented actors Shilpa Tulaskar and Sandeep Kulkarni played harassed parents grappling with a rebellious teenage daughter. We empathised with their helplessness.
In 'Hello Zindagi', Neena Gupta and Kanwaljeet Singh specially the latter are in fine form as Kavita's parents. But the writing constantly lets all the actors down.
The one performer who manages to hold her head above the material provided is Kitu Gidwani. playing the dignified unloved but outwardly well-to-do wife, Gidwani epitomizes grace under pressure.
Her section of the film with her indifferent though not cruel husband (Amit Behl) has some interesting moments, like the one where Gidwani goes into the kitchen to get coffee made by her husband and then pours it quietly down the sink.
Gidwani's journey to Goa with the rebellious Kavita is charted with affection. Very rarely do we get to see a movie so gentle and warm about female bonding over differing generations. What Gidwani shares with the debutante Mrunmayee Lagoo echoes Jessica Tandy's bonding with Bridget Fonda in Deepa Mehta's 'Camilla'.
Except that Gidwani and the girl don't go skinny-dipping. The blackest spot in the film is its lack of sexual energy. The character's are almost invariably frigid in their thoughts and desires. A thwarted indecisiveness runs across the narrative profile rendering the characters weak and unconvincing.
The save-the-turtles message at the end seems forced.
Nonetheless there's enough tenderness and warmth in the relationships shared by Mrunmayee with her screen-dad Kanwaljeet and Kitu Gidwani to make the film worth a watch.
'Hello Zindagi' doesn't bowl you over. But it makes you smile even when the debutant director displays that trite and selfconscious social purpose that makes the film look like a documentary on how to save teenagers and turtles when they don't want to be saved without drowning in the attempt.