Jackie Shroff is the spine of Life is Good, a warm saga of friendship. Photo; Ashwani Shukla

Human beings are emotionally vulnerable at every stage. A child who has lost their mother and is abandoned by the father is internally affected but, in her innocence, organically seeks small pleasures in the bounty of life. A middle-aged and lonely man, however, has little to live for after his only support, his mother, passes away.

What happens when the two come together by chance?

Life is Good is a simple, quite fast-moving tale of 15 years of undiluted friendship between such a child, 6 year-old Mishti (Saniya Anklesaria) and Rameshwar (Jackie Shroff), a middle-aged accountant at a small-town post-office. Their camaraderie begins when she breaks his window with her ball.

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Mishti has just shifted to the neighboring house with her single aunt (Suneeta Sengupta) in a bid to escape from her father (Mohan Kapoor), who had abandoned her as soon as his wife dies, to marry another woman. He now wants her back—four years down.

It so happens that Mishti requests Rameshwar to help out and he tells her that she should go with her father. Mishti gets upset with him. When the father actually traces them, Rameshwar threatens him with legal action for neglecting his daughter and he leaves. The overjoyed Mishti accepts Rameshwar back as a friend.

Time flies and soon it is time for Mishti to get married. It so happens that the boy, Mihir (Nakul Sahdev), will be posted in Chicago. Mishti leaves with him, but speaks to Rameshwar and her aunt daily on Skype. She becomes pregnant. And then something happens that changes everyone’s lives forever.

The film was announced as early as in 2011, as it was semi-biographical. However, multiple reasons came in to bring its release down to this year. Story writer Sujit Sen has delved considerably into his own life for this warm, slice-of-life film that is narrated in a sincere but rather dry manner. There are no highs or lows in drama, the atmosphere is purely about an unlikely and unusual friendship and there is no attempt at twists or surprises.

The bachelor and Mishti’s unmarried aunt never come together in love as one would expect in a movie about loneliness and companionship, there is nothing unpleasant that happens to Rameshwar at home or office, and no further interference by the selfish dad.

Even Rameshwar’s attempted suicide through pills is understated and barely registers. All these factors emerge as refreshingly different but are, sadly, not box-office friendly. This, coupled with the cast and length (100 minutes) suggested an OTT release, but the makers have chosen to go theatrical, so here’s wishing them all the best!

Jackie Shroff puts in a mature and understated essay as Rameshwar—this is truly his film all along. His expressions, body language, smiles and everything else is so attuned to what he plays that you forget you are watching an action hero who was also big on romance and has even kissed so many heroines on screen! His voice is perfectly pitched as well.

Of the three actresses playing Mishti, I think that Saniya Anklesaria, the youngest, scores best. She is incredibly natural and fluid. Ananya Vij is a tad loud and gallery-friendly, though her eyes are very talkative, while Ankita Srivastava as the adult Mishti has nothing much to do. The rest of the cast is good, but again, have not much to do, even the aunt (Suneeta Sengupta).

Technically neat, the film has decent background music by Ajit Verman, but the songs are ruthlessly wasted as per current trends. Shaan’s voice is not at all heard in the film, and even Asha Bhosle’s song comes only in the end-titles. The lyrics are abstruse, too Gulzar-esque in their imagery, and pull down the melodies.

Director Ananth Narayan Mahadevan shows his skills in some of the emotional sequences. One wishes that he had made the film less dry, not with some needless drama but maybe some good humor. After all, it is dedicated to Hrishikesh Mukherjee. For in the end-titles, we come to know that we are to be presented a sequel in 2023, and that would have kept our interest alive.

As things stand, apart from Jackie Shroff’s sterling turn, we are really left only a movie with negative virtues.

Rating: *** (Just About)

Anand Shukla Productions’ Life is Good Produced by: Anand Shukla Directed by: Ananth Narayan Mahadevan Written by: Sujit Sen, Varsha Jain & Ravi Mahadevan Music:  Abhishek Ray Starring: Jackie Shroff, Saniya Anklesaria, Ananya Vij, Ankita Srivastav, Suneeta Sengupta, Rajit Kapur, Darshan Jariwala, Mohan Kapur, Saanand Varma & others

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