Miss India: A Feature-Length Advertisement For ‘Positivitea’
The film is streaming on Netflix.
Miss India is A Feature-Length Advertisement For ‘Positivitea’
(This review contains spoilers)
Do you remember how in the 70s and 80s, protagonists were plagued with difficulties? The parents were too old and weak, and the siblings were either too young to make ends meet, or bed-ridden for some reason. In Miss India, Manasa Samyuktha’s (Keerthy Suresh) life keeps turning upside down every now and then, but she manages to stand upright. Her father (played by Naresh) suffers from Alzheimer’s and her sister elopes with her boyfriend. A few minutes later, her grandfather (played by Rajendra Prasad) dies, and, with that, Samyuktha’s desire of making the patriarch proud goes kaput. For a second there, I thought, I was watching an updated version of K. S. Prakash Rao’s Prema Nagar (1971) in a middle-class setting.
Conversations between the characters also seem to have been inspired by the bombastic nature of Acharya Aatreya’s authorship. Filmmakers, back then, were looking to wrench melodrama out of dialogues, scenes, and even songs. Though this movie doesn’t abjectly fall into that category, it somehow feels like an ancient piece of work. It doesn’t belong to this generation in any manner.
The story is quite simple and it tracks the success of a businesswoman in the United States (Samyuktha, her parents and brother relocate in the hope of finding better opportunities). Her idea is to sell chai and take the flavours of India to all corners of the world.
There’s a special chai that she serves called ‘Love Chai’, and probably “Miss India” is the only store in the universe that would be able to tell you what it is.
Somewhere along the course of the movie, you get a scene where a white man feels hesitant to approach a woman he has been eyeing, and when Samyuktha learns about his problem (he says he’s got a bad voice), she gives him chai. And voila, he walks up to that woman and chats her up. If this gag was chopped off at the edit-table, it would have somehow appeared as an advertisement for a tea brand in a few days.
What could have been an hour-long episode in a below-average Netflix show is dragged on its feet to fill the shoes of a feature-length narrative. The run time is a shade shorter than two hours and twenty minutes, but it still looks stretched due to the absence of inspiring sub-stories.
There’s one about a love interest named Vijay (Naveen Chandra), who spends a couple of days in the company of Samyuktha and gets surprised when she walks into his company for an interview. She’s there at the behest of her brother (played by Kamal Kamaraju, with an uncanny indifference).
How could Samyuktha not know about Vijay’s workplace? Weren’t they sort of dating? Likewise, there’s another scene where another guy (Vikram, played by Sumanth Shailendra) tells her that he’s pleasantly surprised by the visit she has paid him, but looks totally unshaken by her presence. What happened to the thing called acting? Did these actors just land up on the day of the shoot and rush through their scenes?
Moreover, all the men in her life (other than her dad and brother) have agendas of their own. It doesn’t matter if they’re helping her reach her goal, or obstructing her path. Oh, that’s another sub-plot! Has there ever been an Indian film without a villain? Whether it’s a movie, or a business, there’s got to be an antagonist who keeps stacking hurdles against the protagonist. That’s when the writers breathe a sigh of relief. If their principal character doesn’t win against the odds, their work might not see the light of day.
And that villain, in shiny clothes and glasses, is played by Jagapathi Babu (as Kailash Shiva Kumar). Again, there’s a silly scene where these two characters meet face-to-face for the first time. Samyuktha goes to his office to talk about her business idea, but she has no clue as to what the business magnate looks like. Why would a budding entrepreneur not google a billionaire and learn about his ventures before asking him if he would be willing to invest in her business? I’m not mentioning these bits to paint a picture of the spoilers really. I’m rather doing this to bring the loopholes in the script to your attention.
Many a time, filmmakers throw logic out of the window and still go on to create amazing characters and situations. But director Narendra Nath doesn’t do that.
He wants to tell that women can run great businesses, too, which seems perfect from the outset. However, Miss India doesn’t go beyond explaining the virtues of chai and those points have already been splendidly made in the song “Ye Chai Chatukkuna Thaagara, Bhai” (Mrugaraju).
If the writing had been ten times better, maybe Miss India would have ended up as another Mahanati in Keerthy Suresh’s career.
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