Thai Massage is sweet and saucy surprise package

Gajraj Rao and Alina Zasobina in Thai Massage Photo: Rukesh Kumar

A tough call here. An old man, some repressed desires and a film title that reeks of an adult theme. From this material, one has to make a film that is neither cringe-worthy nor sleazy and certainly not boringly moralistic. How do the filmmakers fare then?

Take a subject like erectile dysfunction, not for a young man but for an aging widower, Atmaram Dubey (Gajraj Rao), just on the right side of 70, whose late wife had been bedridden for years before she passed on. Atmaram was faithful throughout, but now, having sired two sons who both have their own families, would like to have a go at being a man.

He is so disturbed by his malady that he attempts suicide by jumping off a bridge in hometown Ujjain, but is stopped by Santulan Kumar (Divyendu Sharma), a stranger who tells him that there is a solution to every problem. Atmaram confides his woes to him, and among the solutions Santulan informs him about is a trip to Thailand, the hotbed of sex.

Atmaram deceives his family (who all respect him immensely) that he is off to a pilgrimage, and proceeds to the foreign jaunt, but once there, he cannot bring himself to jump into ‘”boom boom” (as having it out is termed!) without any emotional involvement in the “action”. He even meets a Russian girl, so much a massive fan of Raj Kapoor that she calls herself Rita (the name of Nargis’ character in Awara, RK’s cult film that remains a perennial in Russia).And then begins a new phase for Atmaram coming to terms with himself and juggling his concepts of right and wrong.

But what happens when his sons come to know of his escapades after his passport is discovered by chance later?

We will skip the implausibility of why Atmaram should hide his passport in such a ridiculous place without anticipating that it will be found one day. That flaw apart, the film is a warm, sweet surprise, saucy to the right extent.But sadly, it will not see any noteworthy success in the movie halls, though it might work—to an extent—on streaming platforms if suitably promoted.

Gajraj Rao deserves a lion’s share of the applause for essaying the old man with hidden desires and a past that explains his mindset. How guilt mixed with natural desires and decency can form a potent cocktail of human nature that seeks happiness is beautifully brought on the screen by this powerhouse performer. His make-up is fantastic and helps in the process, alongside the script and direction. Gajraj’s eyes always spoke volumes, and this time this virtue is enhanced.

Alina Zasobina as Rita comes in late but deserves acclaim for a perfectly etched essay of a good-hearted girl who is mature beyond her years. Divyendu as the loutish do-gooder, Santulan, is in perfect sync with his small-town, happy-go-lucky character, as are Vibha Chibber (in particular) as the neighboring aunt and the actors who play Atmaram’s sons (Sunny Hinduja and another actor) and Santulan’s friends also are well-cast and do good jobs in their roles. Rajpal Yadav’s cameo sees the predictable actor being just that. Nayan Raghuvanshi, in the small role of Santulan’s wife, somehow stands out among the minor characters.

The script could have been trimmed by around 15 minutes at least (it is 122 minutes) and the editing could be crisper. G. Srinivas Reddy’s cinematography is erratic, gaudy and decent by turns, but the songs work within the film. Director-writer Mangesh Hadawale improves drastically over his Hindi debut, Malaal (2019), but must now try his hand at something much more mainstream—which is the real challenge for any creative director and writer.

Rating: ***

T-Series Films & Reliance Entertainment presents Wondow Seat Films’ Thai Massage Produced by: Imtiaz Ali & Mohit Choudhury Directed by: Mangesh Hadawale Written by: Mangesh Hadawale, Sajid Ali & Ashish Thakur Music: Joi Barua & Amit Trivedi Starring: Gajraj Rao, Divyendu Sharma, Alina Zasobina, Sunny Hinduja, Anurita Jha, Vibha Chibber, Rajiv Nema, Ida Ali, Preety Ali, Shibham Tiwari, Rajpal Yadav, Garima Vikram Singh & others




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