36 Farmhouse is unhurried, feel-good cinema

Subhash Ghai’s 36 Farmhouse is a feel-good watch. Photo: Instagram / Subhash Ghai

Classic Hindi cinema always mixes genres, in the sense that there is something for everybody. Subhash Ghai, returning to filmmaking (except direction and including, this time, the music and lyrics), tries out a simple story that has drama, suspense, thrills, romance, comedy and emotions, all at once. You cannot categorize this film either as comedy, thriller or family drama, because it mixes all. The only salute to contemporary cinema is its brief length of 107 minutes, but, as in older movies, coincidences play huge hands in it.

The setting is a palatial property belonging to Padmini Raj Singh (Madhuri Bhatia, who played a key role in Ghai’s Pardes 25 years ago), who lives there with her son Raunak (Vijay Raaz), a failure in both business and his marriage. And the timeframe is the lockdown of 2020.

In comes a counsel (Gaurav Ghatnekar)who wants to meet the matriarch and influence her to change her will towards equal divisions for her three sons, two of whom do not live with her and are doing well. Padmini also has a daughter (never seen), who has remarried and settled abroad. Raunak does not allow the counsel to meet his mother, who has left everything to him, the “have-not” son. He accuses the lawyer of having sold his soul to his brothers.

Then the coincidences begin. The household has a big staff considering its inhabitants (Raunak and his mother) and maid Benny (Ashwini Kalsekar), returning to the mansion from an errand, encounters Jaiprakash (Sanjay Mishra), a migrant trying to return home during the lockdown. Giving him a lift in the car, she hears that he is a cook, and JP (as Jaiprakash calls himself) lies that he has no family. Benny promptly takes him to the house and Raunak appoints him.

Jaiprakash’s son, Hari (Amol Parashar), a self-claimed assistant to the (real) Manish Malhotra, encounters old acquaintance Antara (Barkha Singh), who also gives him a lift. He too wants to reach his home (which is near the farmhouse) but is coaxed by Antara (Barkha Singh) into accompanying her to her house and assisting her, as she is a fashion designer. And guess what? Padmini is Antara’s maternal grandmother, really loves her and goes to meet her often, so Hari too lands up at the farmhouse!

JP and Hari (who now calls himself Harry) are flummoxed on seeing each other there, and out of fear of exposing themselves, continue to behave as strangers. JP occasionally flirts with Benny and they both conspire to steal some jewelry from Pratima’s huge collection, which will thus not be noticed for a long time. They both need money, Benny for her daughter’s education.

Meanwhile, a missing report is filed with the local police about the lawyer, who was last seen entering the farmhouse. Padmini’s shrewd daughter-in-law Mithika (Flora Saini) comes in to coax her to change her will to a “fair” one. The cops keep coming, and ironically, are once summoned by Raunak himself, as he has come to know JP’s truth when his wife lands up there, and wants them both to be arrested for cheating. And, of course, love blossoms between Antara and Harry.

Finally, things come to a head during Padmini’s birthday party, and she decides what will be done about her late husband’s property. What happens to Benny, JP and his wife, and the love story between the youngsters? What has happened to the counsel? In good retro Hindi cinema style, watch the film to know the answers!

The film does, therefore, get into older terrain, but never hangs loose or feels dated. The energy is contemporary, the comic lines and humorous situations keep the flow going, and the two situational songs, “Mind your business” and “Mohabbat” enhance the film along with some of the performances.

Debut-making director Ram Ramesh Sharma has a tight grip on his actors, and the script is quite engaging, though there was some room for improvement in Tripathi’s dialogues that tend to go a shade predictable on some occasions. Also, a part that should have been explained convincingly is how Antara comes to know of Harry’s relationship with JP.

Sanjay Mishra steals the show, and he is a scream when he interacts with his son, with Raunak, and is best when he bluffs to the farmhouse staff about his fame with the stars, flirts with Benny and is irritated with his wife when she lands there. He thus also gets the best lines.

Amol Parashar and Barkha Singh are sincere and come across as a cute couple, and Ashwini Kalsekar has a role, which she can excel in, in her sleep! Pritam Kagne, as Raunak’s confidante and secretary, is pitch-perfect as the non-nonsense co-conspirator. Vijay Raaz, as Raunak, performs well. He is perfectly cast as the failure with a put-on authority that is fragile. Madhuri Bhatia is very effective in the varying moods, and despite her brief role, Nivedita Bhargava makes her own (comic) mark as JP’s wife. The rest of the cast does the needful.

Like the very recent web series, Kaun Banegi Shikharwati, this is a feel-good, relaxing change from the norm today, and adds to the roster of Mukta Arts’ good smaller films like Iqbal and Jogger’s Park and other winners that Ghai produced but did not direct—Shaadi Se Pehle, 36 China Town and Aitraaz among them.

Rating: ***1/2

ZEE5 presents Mukta Searchlight Films & Zee Studios’ 36 Farmhouse Produced by: Subhash Ghai, Rahul Puri & Zee Studios Directed by: Ram Ramesh Sharma Written by: Subhash Ghai & Sharad Tripathi Music: Subhash Ghai Starring: Amol Parashar, Barkha Singh, Sanjay Mishra, Vijay Raaz, Ashwini Kalsekar, Liza Singh, Madhuri Bhatia, Flora Saini, Rahul Singh, Pradeep Bajpai, Pritam Kagne, Gaurav Ghatnekar, Nivedita Bhargava & others




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