In the movie, it is a moment of minor triumph for a husband and wife in the throes of desperation and despair. For that brief instant, nobody except the two recognise the value of an opportunity almost lost and no World Cup can seem as precious as an arduously won sewing machine.
Writer and director Sharat Katariya’s new drama delivers reality, its beauty and bites with a touch of humour, warmth and purpose in the tradition of Dum Laga Ke Haisha.
In Sui Dhaaga too, household bustle and familial tiffs form the core of a joint family of limited means.
Somewhere in Madhya Pradesh resides an elderly couple whose one half (Raghuvir Yadav) is a cantankerous old man coming down hard on the compliant son and the other (Yamini Dass) is a nurturing homemaker so consumed by her daily chores they have become her sole identity. ‘Pateela lekar maregi?‘ inquires her irate husband when she collapses in the kitchen, still tightly holding on to the panhandle even after what seems to be a mild heart attack.
The younger couple in the house — son Mauji (Varun Dhawan) and his significant other Mamta (Anushka Sharma) have forgotten what it feels like to be a couple in their fulfillment of domestic duties.
When Mauji, a tailor by lineage relegated to a minion in a sewing machines shop, alters Mamta’s blouse for a family function, a shy smile lights her face. It is the closest thing to a touch.
Mauji is the sort of person who agrees to belittling antics just to please the bosses. He is half convinced it is entertaining too. ‘Sab badhiya hai‘, he insists in the ironic tone of ‘Brutus is an honourable man’. It is not.
Taken for a pushover and butt of ridicule by everyone around him, it is only after Mamta voices her hurt over the humiliation that the seeds of self-respect are sown.
Self-employment appears to be the key. Except small-town aspirations are often weighed down by a constant need for survival. With financial challenges and unmasked exploitation obstructing their path at every juncture, professional autonomy is hard to come by.
The focus isn’t so much on Mauji’s craft as his struggle for better life as well as Mamta’s support and guidance in empowering their vision.
Katariya goes for a beloved movie trope where triumph of spirit and contests go hand in hand. Sui Dhaaga advances from the marriage of industrious minds to a Lagaan of the sartorial world.
Within its feel-good fervour, Sui Dhaaga touches on the difficulties of grass root labour — the tribulations, rotten deals and measly remuneration reserved for their hardworking hands and engrossed eyes even as so-called ethically conscious designers steal credit and design. Step beyond the elegance of their fancy boutiques and steeply priced sustainable fashion, the woeful state of the artists and weavers across India is as telling as their handiwork.
Despite scenes of misplaced feminism and celebration of underdogs, body types and social classes, Sui Dhaaga is not looking to make villains out of anyone. Instead, Katariya dodges cynicism, endorses reconciliation and views self-seeking folk as products of disappointment and disgruntlement.
No overblown drama, no weepy speech, Sui Dhaaga‘s sunshine spirit and throwaway nok jhonk pervades the uncertainty and exploitation. Some of it is simplistic, some sentimental.
Often earnest displays of goodwill and spirit compensates for its arguable breakthroughs. But Mauji and Mamta are such genuine souls — a protective feeling is spontaneously elicited for the duo and their well being. No better feeling than crying and laughing along with the characters on screen.
Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma portray the world of Sui Dhaaga with a gentleness that turns everything it touches into gold. They play out a marriage coming into its own in such delicate hues, to review their performance as anything but combined would be unjust.
An actor for all seasons, Raghuvir Yadav shines as the sceptic father haunted by his own failures. Watching him on the ramp is one of Sui Dhaaga‘s truly heart melting moments.
As his zinger-ready wife, Yamini Dass carps on how they’d be better off if he’d glug down a bottle of alcohol through three days instead of downing two packets of milk in one. She is a winner.
So is this film.