Shiv Shastri Balboa is a sweet dramedy that advocates for allowing seniors to live with dignity, notes Deepa Gahlot.
Shiv Shastri Balboaa film that hit theaters without any pre-hype hype turns out to be a pleasant surprise.
Very few would get it right away Rocky Connection, but the film — produced by Anupam Kher and written and directed by Ajayan Venugopalan — is a sweet dramedy that advocates for allowing seniors to live with dignity.
Retired bank teller Shiv Shastri (Kher) is so obsessed with Rocky (the Sylvester Stallone star) that not only has he deleted inspirational dialogue from the film, he has even started a boxing club in his colony that has miraculously produced champions.
As the film begins, he has decided to pack up and move to the US to live with his son Rahul (Jugal Hansraj) and his family.
He’s treated with love and kindness – no mean daughter-in-law, no bad kid stereotype – but there’s the big problem of loneliness.
Accustomed to the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood in India, he finds the days idle. He hopes to visit the Rocky Steps in Philadelphia, but the son does not have time to accompany him.
Then he meets Elsa (Neena Gupta), the housekeeper of an Indian family who has been enslaved by their employers for eight years.
She wants to return home to see her granddaughter and asks Shastri for help.
On a whim he decides to accompany her on the bus ride to New York, the cute family pug (who gets his own thought bubbles) insists on coming along.
The two unsuspecting seniors embark on an adventure of a lifetime, which begins when Elsa’s purse is stolen with her money and passport inside.
Shastri is sure that if they find an Indian in the strange place they are in, they will be helped, and his suspicion turns out to be correct.
They end up at the gas station and supermarket run by Cinnamon Singh (Sharib Hashmi), who reluctantly gives them jobs and a tiny home until Elsa can get a double passport.
Rahul is shocked to see his father stacking shelves, but for Shastri, feeling free and unencumbered by expectations of how a senior should behave is priceless.
There’s racism and hints of violence, but also an encounter with the great American symbol of nonconformity – the biker gang.
The cruelty Shastri and Elsa face isn’t the “go back” howls from white jerks, it’s from Elsa’s employers.
The film often stretches the plausibility but retains its gentle humor and a notable lack of melodrama.
The friendship that develops between Shastri and Elsa is intimate yet decent.
Cinnamon Singh hoping to be one bhangra-Rapper, is a hoot.
Regardless of the incongruity of Elsa’s extensive wardrobe of pretty handwoven saris, Neena Gupta delivers another fabulous performance as Elsa from Hyderabadi, who with a few pegs in the hatch can withstand whatever life throws at her.
Anupam Kher unfolds his charm as a shy Shastri, who only discovers the true meaning of life late in the day.
Sharib Hashmi and Jugal Hansraj (It’s always nice to see the actor who had to struggle to get over his Masum Moppet picture) slide easily into their parts.
This is Ajayan Venogopalan’s first feature film and he wisely chose to keep it simple and focus on the emotions.
It was backed by an experienced cast, but in the end it’s the comforting warmth that pervades the film and makes it so worth seeing.
Shiv Shastri Balboa Review Rediff Rating: