For Real

For Real

Cast: Zoya S Hasan, Sarita Chaudhury, Adil Hussain, Sameer Dharmadhikari, Shriharsh Sharma

Director: Sona Jain

Rating: **

Six year old Shruti believes her mom has been kidnapped by aliens. If you know young kids, you will know quite how believable this can be: the imagination of children is the most potent force in the universe. Shruti's (Hasan) brother Paras ( Sharma) is a typical older male sibling: he teases her mercilessly, the affection hidden under the constant ribbing. Sona Jain's debut feature ' For Real' is one of the most real portrayals of children I've seen in Bollywood, which insists on making the young ones appear like automated, cutesy characters who can only speak in sing-song.

Shruti's mother is back after a long absence. Priya (Chaudhary, seen in Mississipi Masala  and Kamasutra) is making a brief stop-over in her busy doctor husband Ravi's (Hussain, so good in Ishqia) home, but has no intention of staying. They are an estranged couple; she brings all her previous discontent to visit; he is desperate for her to settle with him and the kids.  Paras takes her return matter-of-factly. Shruti, abbreviated to Shruts by her mother, behaves like a terribly lost little girl, unable to reconcile the present with the trauma of the past.

The children are both joys, particularly Hasan. She does closed-in and suspicious to a nicety, running away from home when her dad leaves, not wanting to be left alone with the woman. The relationship between the siblings rings true, something most people may have experienced, perhaps, in their own lives.

It's with the adults that Jain falters. The failed expectations and the unhappiness of a strained marriage, come out in lines which feel forced. The characters-- Priya with her unfulfilled ambitions, burdened by her role as wife and mom, Ravi with his desire to do the best for his family, and their friend Deepak (Dharmadhikari), the psychiatrist who helps unblock the little girl-- are not sketched-in enough. And the interplay between them is clunky. For Real sets out to mine the rocky terrain between rowing adults and how it impacts children;  it succeeds only partially.

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