A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rajma Chawal is a 2018 Indian comedy-drama in which an old-fashioned father attempts to connect with his son by pretending to be an attractive young woman on social media. While the movie has plenty of comedic moments, it also explores serious issues such as suicide, abortion, and themes such as the importance of a real-life community as opposed to the validation offered on social media. There's profanity throughout, including "f--k." Characters drink to excess and smoke marijuana. Some violence: An ex-boyfriend and his friends jump the lead character on the street and beat him up; the lead character retaliates by smashing the ex-boyfriend's car with a large stick and then beats him up with the help of his friends. During a bar fight, a character breaks a beer bottle over the head of the person he's fighting. Boyfriends and girlfriends get into screaming and shoving matches.
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What's the story?
Raj (Rishi Kapoor) wants to have a better relationship with this son Kabir (Anirudh Tanwar) after they have moved out of their house in New Delhi to an older part of town after the passing of Kabir's mother. But Kabir wants little to do with his father, preferring instead to look at his smartphone and play in his band. Raj joins Facebook in an attempt to connect with Kabir, but Kabir rejects the friendship and blocks him. Raj's friends come up with a novel solution: Pretend to be a girl from Canada and befriend Kabir on Facebook with the alias "Tara." "Tara" is thus created, using a picture of an attractive young woman found on the internet from pictures of closed Facebook accounts. Tara and Kabir become Facebook friends, and message each other all the time. A true connection develops, but the truth intrudes when Kabir's band plays to a packed house, and Kabir notices "Tara" in the audience. Tara is actually Seher (Amyra Dastur), who works at a hair salon, is estranged from her family, and uses her charm and good looks to get money from her wealthy boyfriend. Kabir can't believe his eyes, and there's an immediate attraction, but Seher runs off, confused by how Kabir seems to know her, leaving Kabir even more confused. Now Raj must find a way to track down Seher, let her in on his scheme that has now gone wrong, figure out how to get her to go along with the scheme, and end the deception without completely destroying his relationship with Kabir once and for all.
Is it any good?
There's a kind of magic that takes hold in RAJMA CHAWAL early in the second act. Before this, the movie seems like it's going to be the worst of clichéd stories about "the generation gap," the kind where Dad doesn't know the meaning of "LOL" and Son just wants to be left alone with his smartphone and his indie rock. But then, as Kabir walks through a narrow alley in the traditional neighborhood of his family, there's a procession of locals, unique individuals all, and the robes are saffron and pink, and it's all quite beautiful. You realize the movie isn't the cliché it seems destined to be, but rather a deeper exploration of what "community" really means, in contrast to the more modern substitutions for community.
It's a comedy and drama about traditions and evolution, being a citizen of a neighborhood as much as a global citizen, of trying to connect with those one should be most connected to. While there's a tendency to get a little too close to melodrama, the characters, dialogue, and acting go far to bring a third dimension to these characters. The Chandi Chowk neighborhood, and New Delhi as a whole, are so prevalent that they feel like characters themselves. This is a beautiful movie that delivers more than what the first impressions might indicate.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the themes and issues addressed in Rajma Chawal. How did the movie manage to balance some of the heavier issues with comedy?
What are some of the ways in which the movie addresses the differences between tradition and modernity, the "generation gap," and the differences between the support that comes from a community and the validation that comes from social media?
How was the setting almost like a character in the movie? What are some other examples of movies where the setting plays such a crucial part in the overall story?
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