Look, let me state the obvious first. Any film that celebrates a woman, an underdog in most societies, especially ours, holds value. Any film that has a woman at its centre, that discusses the problems of her life, holds a certain utility. But this isn’t to say at all that any of this can save a film from being an insufferable bore. Miss India is a film that looks to turn the tables on the conventional hero-rises-in-business template, by having a woman at its centre. The ‘troubled’ family, the worshipping cinematography… it’s all there. There’s even the additional layer of how the villain here is just a symbol of oppressive men, of an oppressive patriarchal system that won’t allow a woman to even dream in peace. Soon as Keerthy Suresh’s character vocalises her dream, the stifling responses come at her. But let us guard against the pitfalls of attributing too much feminist importance to this well-meaning but flawed film. It’s a film with wooden performances from supporting characters, bad dialogues, one too many contrived moments, and quite a bit of problematic portrayal too—like that Alzheimer’s patient who almost gets used as comic relief. This film that tries to mean well for women has its central character, Manasa Samyuktha (Keerthy Suresh), telling a date that should a woman say that she’s thinking about a decision, it means it’s a yes, and that should she say yes, then she shouldn’t be thought of as a woman at all. To borrow a modern idiom, the mind really boggles.
Director: Narendra Nath
Cast: Keerthy Suresh, Jagapathi Babu, Rajendra Prasad
Streaming on: Netflix
It’s the film equivalent of that elderly person in every family who’s intolerable for how they always dole out sanctimonious advice. You could easily create one of those superficial self-improvement books using many of the ideas in here. The film begins with a line about how greatness is a quality that’s neither acquired through the recognition of others nor lost through a lack of acknowledgement. It’s said once more in the film. Manasa’s brother gifts her a watch but not before uttering, “Time is the most valuable thing.” Someone else says a strange line about how compromise is a close friend, how a lie is a neighbour, and how an adjustment is a lover. Manasa is constantly talking about the utility of taking risks. Another character declares that if you don’t build your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs. My personal favourite is when a solemn Samyuktha shares that struggle cannot be purchased at a shop. Wait, did someone think you could? The film is a treasure trove for those who like to deck their walls with posters of superficial lines masquerading as profound wisdom.
For the remainder of this column (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), visit https://www.cinemaexpress.com/reviews/telugu/2020/nov/04/miss-india-movie-review-keerthy-suresh-sells-tea-in-the-us-at-the-expense-of-us-21148.html