Once Again cast: Shefali Shah, Neeraj Kabi, Rasika Duggal, Priyanshu Painyuli, Bidita Bag, Bhagwan Tiwari
Once Again director: Kanwal Sethi
Once Again rating: Two stars
With the changing dynamics of Indian cinema, we are starting to see a wide variety of films that aren’t necessarily formulaic. And while the audience did not have many avenues to watch these films earlier, the world is a much better place now thanks to all the streaming services. Available on Netflix, Once Again, starring Shefali Shah and Neeraj Kabi, is one such film.
As the title suggests, Once Again is the story of two individuals trying to find love and companionship one more time in life. Tara, played Shefali Shah, is a widow who runs a restaurant. With a son and daughter to look after, Tara has been independent for a long time but amid a busy life, she is a lonely woman. Amar, played by Neeraj Kabi, is another lonely soul. Being a popular actor, he is surrounded by yes men but in Tara, he finds someone who is honest with him. She isn’t star struck but sees him as a lost man who is struggling with his day job, like many others.
While the trailer of Once Again was reminiscent of Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox, the film isn’t anything like the Irrfan Khan-Nimrat Kaur starrer. Here, the food that Tara prepares for him is just the tool that introduced them to each other. We don’t see how their relationship blossomed but the comfort they share over their 10 pm phone calls shows the stability that they have found in each other. The spark that once started his relationship has stayed over the past year and now, they both yearn for something more.
Shefali Shah and Neeraj Kabi are both excellent performers. Her wide eyes give away her thoughts and his brooding personality gives a sense of his dilemma.
Once Again spends a lot of time in exploring their love story and much of it starts feeling like a drag after a while. Tara doesn’t want to encourage this relationship but she gives in and as we start seeing them together more often, it starts feeling repetitive. The dialogues too aren’t something that leave an impact. And for a film that relies on phone conversations for the most part, these could have really helped the film.
Director Kanwal Sethi has two of the finest actors from Hindi cinema to tell this story but the story isn’t engaging enough to keep us interested. At an hour and forty minutes, the film feels way too long. Had the same story been told in a short film, it would have probably left more impact.
The supporting cast comprising of Rasika Duggal and Priyanshu Painyuli is impressive. Rasika gets to share some moments with her on-screen father (played by Neeraj) where the audience gets an insight into their relationship but in the case of Priyanshu, his complaining nature slowly becomes annoying.
The background music here is calming. It leaves you melancholic and fits perfectly with the story of the two characters.
Shefali Shah and Neeraj Kabi do not disappoint. Their chemistry with each other and with the camera is enticing and makes it difficult for us to look away. Once Again could have been so much more and even though it doesn’t leave you satisfied in the end, there is enough here to give it a chance.