Movie Review: Waiting

May 26, 2016

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In a particularly effective scene, the two main characters of Anu Menon‘s film “Waiting” have a heated argument in a hospital parking lot about their respective spouses. Can you take a decision about someone else’s life? How do you decide if they want to live like a vegetable or would prefer to die instead? “Stop trying to kill your husband,” Shiv (Naseeruddin Shah) tells Tara (Kalki Koechlin).

Waiting2It is one of the few times the film strikes a true note. At other times, this tale of two strangers forming an unlikely friendship as they wait for their spouses to come out of a coma is a meandering tale that feeds off lazy stereotypes and tired plot lines one can spot from a mile away.

Shiv is a retired professor who visits his wife of 40 years every day as she lies comatose in a sterile hospital room. He’s friends with everyone in hospital, except the doctor (Rajat Kapoor) who tells him that his wife is beyond cure. Stuck in denial, Shiv flies into rages, pores over medical journals and cites case histories of patients who have woken up from deep comas to anyone who would listen.

Tara, on the other hand, is jolted from newly-wed bliss when her husband has an accident that leaves him with a serious brain injury and the possibility of never fully recovering. Stuck in a new city, unable to come to grips with her situation, she finds a friend in Shiv. He shakes her out of her stupor. “There has to be purposefulness in your waiting,” he tells her.

Yet, it is this very purpose that is missing in Menon’s narrative. For long periods of time, both Shiv and Tara don’t seem to undergo any character progression. Their motives change for seemingly no reason, and Menon cannot seem to go beyond a very superficial examination of two people dealing with a traumatic situation.

Waiting1Waiting for your loved one to come out of a life-threatening illness crushes even the best of us, but Menon’s narrative focuses on clichés such as the generation gap between Shiv and Tara, with dialogue like “You know how many followers I have on Twitter?” just for effect.

This comes off sounding affected and artificial and you end up never fully getting the sense of Shiv and Tara — because they are always talking in clichés. Thank God for Naseeruddin Shah who leaves the artificiality behind and plays the wise but volatile Shiv with a serenity and dignity that can only come from an actor of his calibre. Koechlin tries hard to match him and succeeds partially. At other times, she is shrill and her runny mascara and garish make-up heightens the high-pitched tone of her character.

At  98 minutes, “Waiting” is a good attempt that explores the mindset of two people whose lives are altered forever, but it does its subject a huge disservice by never daring to go beyond the surface.

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Shilpa on Twitter at @shilpajay and Tony at @TonyTharakan. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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