Ventilator review: This heartwarming family film brings laughter and tears

Producer Priyanka Chopra and director Rajesh Mapuskar’s Marathi debut is a refreshing take on a dysfunctional Mahrashtrian family.

Suparna Thombare

Film: Ventilator
Rating: 3/5

Ventilator is a comedy-drama that mostly plays out in the confined space of a hospital with a gazillion characters moving in and out. It’s an exciting scenario, also perfect for a good play, but it is still a challenge to pull off a film of this nature, with over 100 actors, of whom around 20 are prime characters.

The sudden hospitalisation of Gajanan Kamerkar sends the entire Kamerkar family into a tizzy. His son Prasanna (Jeetendra Joshi) and daughter Sarika (Sukanya Kulkarni) decide to put him on a ventilator. Word about his condition spreads fast among the extended family and to their ancestral village in Konkan.

Gajanan’s brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and their kids, all head to the hospital in Mumbai. While it is great to see the family come together in a moment of crisis, each one has their own issues, quirks and agendas. 

Prasanna is trying to find a footing in politics and wants to prove his worth to his party’s leader  even as his father battles for his life in hospital. His relationship with his father is not the best as there has been no communication. He feels his sister has always been loved and favoured by his father over him.

And while one of his nephews, Raja (Ashutosh Gowariker), a famous filmmaker, is sceptical about meeting his family after years, some are worried about what would happen to the promised toilet in the village and others want their right to the mangoes in their family orchard. Like his cousin, Raja also has unresolved issues with his own father. 

Also, one of the main concerns of family members is that if Gajanan dies, the family will have to go through a mourning period, which will ruin their approaching Ganpati festival.

Most of the first half introduces each character and the character's quirks, issues or flaws. Things can get really messy when presenting one character after another, but the humour and clarity in Mapuskar’s writing of the roles keeps it entertaining. That isn’t to say it is not overwhelming as you are left to deal with too many family problems!

The film is full of lovely performances though. Nikhil Ratnaparkhi, Swati Chitnis, Sukanya Kulkarni, Sulbha Arya, Satish Alekar, Ashutosh Gowariker, Jeetendra Joshi, Viju Khote and the other artistes put their best foot forward, and portray their characters earnestly and with conviction.

Priyanka Chopra as herself and Boman Irani as a doctor also make charming cameos, adding to the fun.

While most of the film is funny and irreverent, the last half hour or so gets melodramatic. Also, the drama lasts longer than required. In one scene in the climax, an uncle takes his own time narrating a tear-jerking story, which is supposed to offer resolution to two of the prime characters. It is a deliberate effort to tug at your heartstrings after making you laugh. Some editing in the second half could have helped the cause too. But as they say, all is well that ends well, and the end of Ventilator does put a smile back on your face. 

The dysfunctional Kamerkars, their fights, their discussions and their quirks are bound to remind you of times when your own family comes together. And that makes you relate to the characters. 

The one aunty who loves to sell her products at family gatherings, a young IIT graduate who doesn’t relate to his family, that cousin who is married and lives in the US, one distant cousin’s wife who feels slighted by the family head, an overweight kid who loves food, the grandfather who just wouldn’t listen to anyone – these are all people we know. 

There are enough laugh-out-loud moments and heart-warming scenes to involve you in proceedings. While there are some typically Maharashtrian scenarios and jokes, most non-Marathi families should be able to identify with the aspects of a family drama and comedy.

Mapuskar’s film is finally in the spirit of ‘happy entertainers with a message’ like his mentor Rajkumar Hirani, with whom he has worked as associate director on films like Munnabhai M.B.B.S. and 3 Idiots. Here the message is that Indian families, no matter how dysfunctional, stick together despite differences. Wish this wasn't spelt out in that one token scene though. This is also a more sure-footed attempt by Mapuskar than his last film, Ferrari Ki Sawaari (Hindi, 2012).

Ventilator has its heart in the right place. So forgive the extra dose of melodrama, and enjoy this family as it comes together to make you laugh and cry, so that you leave the theatre feeling happy and warm inside. As one of the songs in the film says, 'Ya re ya sare ya! [Come one and all!]'

Cast: Ashutosh Gowariker, Jeetendra Joshi, Sukanya Kulkarni, Sulbha Arya
Story, dialogue and direction: Rajesh Mapuskar
Producer: Priyanka Chopra and Dr Madhu Chopra
Runtime: 130 min