Director: Sanjivan Lal
Cast: Sohail Lakhani,Delzad Hiravali,Apoorva Arora ,Suraj Singh,Sachin Khedekar,Tanvi Azmi
With children as the principal cast,the hardest thing is to get the tone right. Bollywood veers usually,and distressingly,between cautionary or cutesy,and is only now learning to tread a new path. ‘Bubble Gum gets it to the rights,with its life-like portrayal of a couple of small-town teenage brothers experiencing the first stirrings of young adulthood.
There are several nice things about the film. The let-the kids-be-kids tenet is adhered to strictly : adults come in only when they need to. Vedant ( Lakhani) is an excitable fourteen-year-old,who is dealing,not very well,with the twin pressures of having a challenged older brother Vidur ( Hiravali),and the aches-and-pains first love brings. Jenny ( Arora) is the girl-next-door,and Vedant is well and truly smitten,but hes not the only contender. Bad boy Ratan ( Singh) is a worthy rival,keeping a lusty eye on both Veds girl and Vidurs stamp collection,as the gang looks on.
To have urban kids hanging out in middle-class colony compounds minus gizmos is a near impossibility these days. But this film is set in the prehistoric pre-internet,pre-cellphone ’80s when acquiring a shiny new bicycle held out the same happiness as an X Box can today. The location is Jamshedpur ( the second time its featured big in the last couple of years,after Udaan),so you get a mélange of accents ( Bihari,Bengali,and in between),not overdone,hurray. The characters look as if they belong to those houses,and live that life. In which everyone in town knows everyone else,the fathers of pretty girls have to be prostrated before,summer afternoons have to spent playing ‘kabaddi ( the only way you can legitimately hold a girls hand),and festivals are a merry,communal affair : the director clearly knows his ground,and serves nostalgia well-done,without mawkishness.
Getting a verbally-challenged/hearing-impairment act to feel natural,and steering clear of turning it into an exaggerated mime or milking it for pathos,is another toughie. Hiravali,who in real life is challenged,makes it refreshingly matter-of-fact,as just something he lives with. Lakhani,who plays the younger brother,also makes you smile,with his getting riled by constant parental attention to the older one,his refusal to cut his hero-like long curls,his display of the love-and-irritation that is the outcome of being a sibling,and the all-consuming passion for a pretty girl. Vedant is the youngster you may have been,when you were fourteen. Khedekar and Azmi make good parents,even if they use the word handicapped,of two boys with different needs,trying to keep both happy.
‘Bubble Gum suffers from some amount of narrative drabness,and some strange too-quick transitions. But it is a film that needs to be noted for its appealing cast and being true to itself.