Mumbai, 19 Jul 2019 7:00 IST
The film, directed by Vikram Phadnis, is backed by fine performances from Mukta Barve and Lalit Prabhakar.
Fashion designer-turned-filmmaker Vikram Phadnis’s debut film Hrudayantar (2017), starring Subodh Bhave and Mukta Barve, revolved around a person suffering from cancer and the effects of the illness on the person’s family.
His second, Smile Please, also revolves around an illness faced by one of the leading characters. The film tells the story of Nandini Joshi (Barve, again), a successful fashion photographer. Nandini lives in Mumbai with her father (Satish Alekar) and a maid Jyoti (Trupti Khamkar), who is more like family.
Nandini has separated from her husband Shishir (Prasad Oak). Shishir, who lives in the same city, has custody of their daughter Nupur (Vedashree Mahajan). Nupur loves her father and isn’t fond of Nandini, which is a source of hurt for the latter.
Over time, Nandini starts having problems while carrying out her day-to-day activities. That is when she learns, much to her and her family’s dismay, that she is suffering from a serious mental condition.
When all appears lost, Viraj (Lalit Prabhakar), a stranger, enters Nandini's life. He is the son of Nandini’s father’s friend in Nagpur and is to stay with the Joshis till he can find accommodation in Mumbai.
While Hrudayantar and Smile Please both revolve around illnesses, both films are very different not only in terms of their storylines but also the treatment. While Hrudayantar became heavy and, at times, melodramatic, Smile Please steers clear of such a narrative. This film does not only focus on the tragic journey of someone struggling with a serious condition. It deals with the illness subtly, which ensures that the proceedings never become too heavy.
While the film convincingly portrays Nandini’s condition, it also gives a positive message for people going through such a situation and for their family members. At the same time, despite the treatment being light, the seriousness of Nandini's condition is not ignored.
The major reason for the positivity in the film is Viraj's character. While he does remind you of Shah Rukh Khan’s character from Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), he has a different behavioural pattern. You may find him a tad intrusive about the personal matters of the Joshis, but Prabhakar’s sincerity stops this from feeling like a threat.
Lalit Prabhakar delivered a thoroughly mature performance as Gopalrao Joshi in Sameer Vidwans’s Anandi Gopal earlier this year. He succeeds yet again here in a completely different character in a hugely different time zone.
To be sure, Smile Please would have made greater impact if the script had gone a little deeper into some of its characters. The writers don’t delve deep enough into the reasons for Nandini and Shishir’s divorce, or about why the husband was given custody of their child. The reason cited for the divorce does not gel with Shishir’s character. Otherwise, Prasad Oak has performed the role fairly well. We are also not given enough background about Viraj.
In the end, however, the positives overtake the negatives. The biggest reason is Mukta Barve's performance. The actress goes convincingly from a normal person to someone struggling with a mental condition. Veteran Satish Alekar also creates an impact by being a pillar of strength who speaks more through body language. Adolescent actress Vedashree Mahajan as Nupur is the surprise. She is a natural.
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