By Subhash K. Jha
Film: "Hope Aur Hum"; Directed by Sudip Bandopadhyay; Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Sajid Kabir, Aamir Bashir, Naveen Kasturia, Sonali Kulkarni, Beena Banerjee; Rating: ***
There is an unmistakable influence of Giuseppe Tornatore's "Cinema Paradiso" in the relationship that grandfather Naseeruddin Shah shares with his screen-grandson Sajid Kabir.
This is a world blessed with buffered benignity, anointed with painlessness far removed from the anxieties and angst of family ties and national obligations in "102 Not Out" and "Raazi", a world that is quaint and measured and which for its reverence for innocence, must be treasured.
I have to admit that at the end of the 90-plus minutes of viewing, I am yet to find a central core in the plot.
Director Sudip Bandopadhyay looks at the relations in a typical North Indian middle class family governed by memories and cricket. Memories have to do with Naseeruddin, whose wizened appearance and gravelly voice are enough to bring a wealth of nostalgia to this wispy tale of time-passages that leave no scars, and hardly any footprints in this case. Naseer's Grandpa clings to an almost defunct photocopy machine as we do to fading memories.
His cricket-obsessed grandson (played by little Sajid Kabir who at 9, is already threatened with over-exposure and over-confidence), has his own struggles to deal with. Apart from the fact that his parents (Aamir Bashir and Sonali Kulkarni, blending in) make him miss all his important cricket matches with his neighbouring team mates, he also has a secret guilt tucked away in his grandmother's ancestral home.
There is a gentle hint of cultural dispossession in 'Dada' Naseeruddin's antique obsolete photocopy machine being sold off and 'Nani' Beena's (wearing the loveliest cotton saris) ancestral property being disposed off... These balances are never allowed to acquire a self-important metaphorical slant. Validation is sought not through profundity, but innocence.
All through, "Hope Aur Hum" remains an artless celebration of everyday life with whits of wit and warmth flecking the sunkissed frames (Ravi K Chandran's artful cinematography is quietly at work) in a freewheeling motion of arching routine captured in chunks rather than nuances.
There are characters here who go through the motions of everyday rituals and hassles without lugging around the weight of their workload. A little girl tries to study hard as her kid brother uses their shared room as a cricket field. As the family's young son (Navin Kasturia, always an actor of understated finesse) hunts for his lost cellphone, we get the film's most interesting cameo by Neha Chauhan (the leading lady of Rahul Dahiyaa's "G Kutta Se").
Chauhan pops up as a nameless mysterious girl on an auto-rickshaw with the missing mobile and disappears just as suddenly. A faintly echoic fusion of fleeting moments, "Hope Aur Hum" is a fragile benign slice-of-life saga where generations don't clash, they converge with amiable ambivalence.
The performances are unerringly tender in this slender sweet suburban saga of fading memories faint hope and some charm.