You crave to eat something spicy or chatpata when the rains approach. Mumbai is a city in which people are known to be fond of getting drenched in the rain and not protect themselves from it. During heavy downpour, one can see thousands of localites and tourists sitting casually in and around iconic places in the city like Marine Drive, Bandra Bandstand, Juhu beach and letting themselves get wet with much pleasure. There is something about Mumbai rains that fascinates people. It is the same city where the Tigmanshu Dhulia directed short film ‘Baarish Aur Chowmein’ is set in. The film, starring Amit Sadh and Taapsee Pannu in principal roles, was shot a couple of years back and has released on a digital streaming platform recently.
Siraj (Amit Sadh) works as a museum in Mumbai. To find himself an accommodation in the city, he had to hide the fact that he is a Muslim and had to introduce everyone in his personal space as Suresh. Siraj lives in a small accommodation in a chawl owned by the father of Neelu (Taapsee Pannu), who works as a background dancer in Hindi films. Siraj and Neelu have starkly contrasting personalities; while she is a loud and uninhibited Maharashtrian woman, Siraj is a painfully well-behaved and proper Muslim man from North India. In a classic case of getting attracted to someone who is completely the opposite of you, Siraj falls in love with Neelu and asks her to love him in exchange for a monthly salary.
The director tries to justify the title of the film by showing the two protagonists going out to have chowmein at roadside stalls a couple of times. What about the rain, you ask? Well, one would have to assume that the events in the film occur during the rainy season. Or probably, it serves as the metaphor for Siraj and Neelu, two distinctively different people, who complete each other. Keeping the irrelevance of the title aside, let us analyse what the film stands for and how successful Dhulia, along with writer Kausar Munir, has been in portraying it.
Siraj stands for several young men (or women for that matter) in the country who suffer from different kind of prejudices because of belonging to a particular community. Even in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, this is a problem that still persists. Neelu is one of the many young women in the city who find it claustrophobic and want to go abroad in search of greener pastures. Though the film largely revolved around these two characters, there are a couple of other small characters like Siraj’s colleague in the museum and Neelu’s father, who add a lot of value to the story. There are several heart-warming moments which make for a good watch. Having said that, it would be fair to say that Dhulia and Munir do not explore these ideas to their fullest potential. After watching the film, one feels that there a lot of colours, from the palette they picked up, were not even used while doing up the painting. The film, which one gets to see eventually, could have been easily trimmed by 10-12 minutes.
When you have Tigmanshu Dhulia as the director and able actors like Amit Sadh and Taapsee Pannu leading the show, you expect competent performances. Amit Sadh looks every bit of well-mannered and cultured Siraj. His affection and pining for Neelu comes across very nicely in a subtle manner. Taapsee Pannu shines as the fiery and outspoken Neelu harbouring big dreams in life. Among others, Somnath Tadwalkar (Duttaram), Tariq (Upadhyay) and Manas Thakkar (waiter at the restaurant) leave a mark.
‘Baarish Aur Chowmein’ barely touches upon the big ideas it seeks to explore but the film has several memorable moments powered by the performances of its lead actors. That, despite the lack of a coherent screenplay, makes the film watchable.