Movie Review: Tumhari Sulu Is Like A Warm Hug

Shreemi Verma

Tumhari Sulu is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. I know that’s not saying a lot (considering we haven’t really seen many great films lately), but Suresh Triveni‘s creation is just adorable. Vidya Balan stars as the incredibly driven but very distracted Sulochana aka Sulu. After a long time, I’ve seen a genuinely hilarious leading lady on-screen. She’s sharp, does a great S.P. Balasubrahmanyam impression and she’s unputdownable. The film is a simple story of a housewife, who loves to win. But she also loves to have fun. From the lemon-spoon race (where she comes second, but sneakily stands on the place of the winner) to the antakshari competition she played while waiting to audition for a dancing reality show for moms, and my personal favourite – winning in the Lata Mangeshkar Sad Song competition, Sulu does all of that and much more.

She’s often mocked by her father and her elder twin sisters, Aradhana and Kalpana (Sindhu Shekharan and Seema Taneja), who have ‘respectable’ jobs in a bank and tend to think of themselves as the authority in Sulu’s life. Her father doesn’t fail to bring up the fact that she failed 12th grade thrice, something Sulu acts nonchalant about, but you can see that it hurts her whenever this is mentioned.

But Sulu’s life is not sad. As one half of one of the most rock solid on-screen marriages in recent years, Sulu has her soulmate in Ashok (Manav Kaul). He massages her feet when she’s tired, sings along to her rendition of Balasubrahmanyam‘s Batata Wada and turns into a marshmallow when Sulu decides to test her “sexy” voice on him. Talking about the voice, it’s sexy enough to get Sulu a job in Radio Wow – a cool, millennial-y radio station where the principle characters are RJ ‘Albeli Anjali’, played by popular RJ Malishka Mendonsa, Maria, the strict but warm boss essayed by Neha Dhupia and the “revolutionary” poet Pankaj (Vijay Maurya) – who is tired of writing jingles for papads. This motley group entertains, trains and encourages Sulu to realize her dreams, not without making fun of her of course.

Sulu turns into a husky-voiced ‘bhabhi‘ for late night callers, who range from sleazy rickshaw drivers to lonely widowers. She has a customized way of speaking to everyone but she never tolerates fools. Ashok’s job is not so glamourous. Working in a suiting-shirting company since 12 years, where the average age seems to be 65 and above, Ashok manages to stop fights between two tailors, give his really old boss his daily medicine and do his job diligently. His situation worsens when the grandson of the owner comes along and takes advantage of Ashok’s submissive nature. Predictably, this and Ashok’s insecurity over Sulu’s borderline erotic conversations with her callers creates tension between the ideal couple.

The movie has an excellent ensemble cast. Manav shines as the simple, loving and sometimes cowardly Ashok. The elder sisters Aradhana and Kalpana played by Sindhu and Seema are pitch perfect. Neha, Vijay and Malishka have done a great job in providing support to Vidya. The songs are nice with Guru Randhawa‘s Ban Ja Tu Meri Rani being the standout number. Suresh Triveni has written and directed this little gem with a lot of love and that shows. Obviously, the onus of making or breaking Suresh’s vision lies on the very able shoulders of Vidya Balan, and boy does she deliver! Vidya is known to be one of the best actresses in India, and for good reason. She sparkles as Sulu and proves that she’s the only actress worthy enough to dance on a recreation of Sridevi‘s Hawa Hawai.  

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