Super Nani is called Super Nani because a submissive housewife, (Rekha) prodded by her US-based grandson (a soppy Sharman Joshi speaking in a terribly fake NRI accent), reinvents herself as a glamorous diva to teach her thankless family a lesson in gratitude and humility.
While braving this outmoded farce, directed by Indra Kumar and starring Rekha in the title role (and the only reason anyone would even bother), I thought of many other befitting titles it could have opted for.
Makeover is Bollywood’s favourite pastime. Whether it’s for the sake of romance, revenge or retrieving a straying husband, the underestimated heroine often ditches her girl-next-door avatar to transform into a superficial picture of smouldering charm.
Rekha has an abundant experience of this recreation. Whether it’s her famously documented metamorphosis off screen or glitzy turn from plain to polished in Khoon Bhari Maang, it’s always served her in good stead.
The veteran adopts this old formula once again for Super Nani and indulges her love for dolling up in kitschier versions of Anarkali (Mughal-E-Azam), Rosie (Guide) and Radha (Mother India). Here’s an occasion where a wink of self-referencing — a sprinkle of Umrao, a dash of Chandni — would have laced the scene with impish humour. Instead it comes out all bland and bumbling.
It’s like the director’s only brief to his cast, specifically Rekha and Sharman Joshi, is to sob, sigh, weep or wail with glistening eyes as if their life depends on it.
Every single frame of this tearjerker tests a viewer’s tolerance for extreme schmaltz.
Bottomline: Super Nani comes pretty close to breaking the record rona dhona in that Juhi Chawla melodrama called Saajan Ka Ghar.
When Rekha’s on screen daughter broadcasts her intentions to marry a divorcee-to-be, the earth-shattering tone of the background score suggests a catastrophe akin to Deepak Parashar uttering ‘Talaaq, Talaaq, Talaaq” to Salma Agha in Nikaah.
That’s not all of it. If the divorce doesn’t come through, the couple intend to opt for a ‘live-in’ arrangement. At this point, the background score is dangerously close to exploding both ears.
“Yeh paap hai,” squeals Rekha. “Yeh bimaari hai,” sneers Sharman.
Aamir Khan, please ask your Dil director to explain himself whenever you shoot an episode of Satyamev Jayate on live-in relationships in India.
While cohabitation without marriage is a complete no-no, begging a matchmaker to find a suitable boy for your daughter because she’s in her late 20s is what makes for a Super Mom.
Super Nani is quite clear about what qualities make for a good woman – religion. She regularly prays and frequents temples. She believes in astrology and mannats. What’s more she plays this pati-parmeshwar advocating doormat out of the sheer magnanimity of her heart. But, of course, everyone else around is painted into an outright villain so that her greatness stands out even more prominently.
Remember those preachy family dramas Ghar Ho Toh Aisa, Biwi Ho Toh Aisi and ilk designed to discipline a haughty Bindu? Only Super Nani, with its hair-dye fixated dialogues (Baalon ki mehendi jeevan ka anth nahi shuruat bhi ho sakti hai) and hammy performances does not possess an iota of wit to render the shaming or turning new leaf any amusement.
In the contrived and mawkish universe of Super Nani, nothing happens for a reason.
There’s no real conviction in why Rekha attracts such negativity from her husband or brood. It’s just that their characters are written to be nasty to her without any subtext and to squeeze out sympathy.
What I found to be singularly notable about Super Nani are the beautiful woven saris worn by its gorgeous leading lady.
Of red lips, flowing tresses, impeccable make-up and kohl-ed eyes, the camera loves Rekha and her rich demeanour.
Sadly, the attitude and ada that makes her so timeless is dumbed down in a role and film so behind its time.