'Tumhari Sulu' Review: This Vidya Balan Film Falls Way Short Of Expectations

It seemed promising at first.

Tumhari Sulu, written and directed by the Suresh Triveni, presents the story of a Mumbai-based housewife who aspires of becoming a radio jockey. Produced by T-Series and Ellipsis Entertainment, Tumhari Sulu stars Vidya Balan in the titular role. Balan has Neha Dhupia, Manav Kaul and Vijay Maurya as co-stars in the film, with Malishka Mendonsa aka RJ Malishka making a special appearance.

Tumhari Sulu is the latest in the series of slice-of-life films to have come out of Bollywood in the recent times. These films are certainly a departure from the run-of-the-mill films that Bollywood keeps churning out. The success of such films is dependent on ensemble cast rather than star power. The screenplay gives freedom to the director as well as the actors to explore new things. Tumhari Sulu is no different in this regard. Some of those who watch it may be reminded of the light hearted family drama films of the '70s.

Vidya Balan's performance in Tumhari Sulu is part playful, part sober. Here is a woman who is constantly reminded of her failures by those around her. We learn that she failed in her Class XII exams not once but twice. The third time around she fell in love and got married and could never complete her studies. She has always wanted to work but her family responsibilities haven't allowed her to take up a job even though her husband's salary is barely sufficient to run the household. But it hasn't stopped her from regularly taking part in locality events/competitions wherein her talent gets constantly acknowledged. So when she learns of an opening for the role of an RJ, she is quick to pounce on it. Only things are not as simple as she thinks at first. The rest of the film is about her trying to overcome the various obstacles that prevent her from realizing her dream.

Tumhari Sulu begins on a promising note but it fails to sustain the impetus. Radio offers a great opportunity as a cinematic trope and several movies in the past have used it to great effect. Two great examples that come to mind from Hindi cinema are Mani Ratnam's Dil Se and Shakti Samanta's Anurodh. What Shah Rukh Khan and Rajesh Khanna achieve in the two films, respectively, allows radio to become a character of its own. Of course, the credit also goes to the direction and the writing in those two films. Sadly, this homogeneity seems to be missing in Tumhari Sulu. Also, Vidya Balan's accent lacks consistency and keeps fluctuating throughout the film. The endless product and service placements in the film come across as rather annoying.

Tumhari Sulu certainly has its moments and the first half is really well done but somewhere the second half fails to sustain the brilliance. And, in the end, what could have been an exceptional film falls short by some margin.

Rating: B-

A version of this review was first published in A Potpourri of Vestiges.

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