Review: Saas Bahu aur Sensex (2008)

Cast: Farooque Shaikh, Tanushree Dutta, Kirron Kher, Ankur Khanna, Masumeh, Lilette Dubey

Director: Shona Urvashi

Music: Blaaze, Bipin, Randolph Correa

Ratings : * * *

It’s a world where the economy ain’t in great shape. And so, “Saas Bahu Aur Sensex” may provide some good-old-those-were-the-days nostalgia for those who get the stock market.

Interestingly titled, “Saas Bahu Aur Sensex” always had me wondering how it would blend in the culture of saas-bahu soaps with the Indian stock market. After watching the film, I’m still left wondering.

It’s a slickly packaged film – as virtually all Indian films nowadays are – and in the perfectly colour coordinated world of Modern Colony, we are introduced to the various members of the super complex of apartments that now define urban India.

At the Jetmalani family wedding, we get a glimpse of the various migrant families that have made Mumbai home. The Sikh, the Tamil, the Sindhi, the Bengali, the Muslim, the Parsi and so on. It’s a pretty tableau that is well in sync with the India Shining story.

Ritesh Jetmalani (Ankur Khanna) works at a call centre and helps Nitya Sen (Tanushree Dutta) and her mother Binita Sen (Kirron Kher) settle into their new home in the colony. He also helps Nitya secure a job at the call centre, where various other members of the colony’s families seem to be employed.

The Sens have relocated from Kolkata after the parents divorced and both women work on finding jobs and working out their own mother-daughter friction. As Nitya learns how to sort out her Yankee twang, Binita teaches nursery children at a school recommended to her by Feroze Sethna (Farooque Shaikh), who also teaches her the nuances of the stock market.

Fluctuating between the rising Sensex, soap operas and kitty parties that include Anita Jetmalani (Lilette Dubey) and other members of the colony, the film also plays out the narrative of a love triangle involving Nitya, Ritesh and Keerti (Masumeh Makhija).

Jilted at the altar by Keerti, who prefers money over man, Ritesh and Nitya’s love track is set right towards the end.

The backdrop of “Saas Bahu Aur Sensex” is novel. It’s set in a large township colony and is a squeaky clean and simplistic look at the world of call centres, kitty parties and stock markets. The narratives are basic, the plots are predictable and the music – barring one track from a Tamil film of the ‘90s – is passable.

“Saas Bahu Aur Sensex” is pleasing on the eye as it has a soothing aesthetic look to it and nothing about it is over the top. It shows us one of the many faces of India today. So we’re spared the poverty and the realities of the social complications that plague the country.

Its message is clear. While it champions female empowerment it also cautions against greed when investing.

And of course, with a stellar cast of theatre players, there is little to say about the performances. Farooque Shaikh is delightful as the stock broker lacking a female presence in his life. Watch him transform from a lady loather to a lady lover who entertains the kitty party group of Modern Colony, and you end up wishing he was on screen much much more. Kirron Kher is as graceful in the role of divorced woman and single mother as is her perfectly put together wardrobe. And what of Lilette Dubey? She charms her way through the character of a loving mother and wife of a Sindhi man.

The younger actors – Tanushree Dutta, Ankur Khanna and Masumeh – all impress greatly with their composed performances. When faced with veterans they hold well and as representatives of the aspiring young café-savvy India, they come out top notch.

“Saas Bahu Aur Sensex” fails in the engrossment quotient. As a film it may have worked a couple of years ago, when India’s Sensex was really booming and call centres were all the rage. Today’s India though is different from the India in the film but as is the case with most Indian films it means well, but is ill-timed.

As a narrative and plot it’s far from gripping and has many a meandering moment. Fortunately though it’s not a preachy film and passes little judgment on any of the players including the gold-digging Keerthi, who leaves Ritesh for the ultra-rich Yash Modi (Sudhanshu Pandey).

As a film it holds little mass appeal even among the urban elite. It will however, find great favour with the demographic similar to Binita Sen and her friends – the kitty party, soap opera loving Indian woman, who occasionally dabbles in stocks.

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