What a let-down that our wait for Irrfan Khan’s return was limited to one day of screen time. Angrezi Medium’s trailer left us chorusing ye dil maange more, especially when Khan appealed to his audience to wait for him. And we waited for him, in anticipation of his unique brand of seamless spontaneity. Like a new gourmet dish from a masterchef, a new bouquet from a designer perfumier, a new painting from a well-known atelier. Do all these expectations make Khan sound like a well-rehearsed actor performing to a preconceived notion of perfection?
Khan’s impact is far from such textbook definitions of acting. When we see him on screen, we don’t realise where acting begins and living-the-character ends. There is such beguiling ease in his presence, nothing contrived or worked hard at. If he follows method acting, you don’t see the nuts, bolts and rivets of the craft. He is just Champak, the doting small-time mithai wala who will do anything for his daughter; Raj Batra, relocating from an assured status in Chandni Chowk to snooty south Delhi, again for his little daughter, in Hindi Medium. In the process, he redefines fatherhood that radiates undemanding, unconditional love for a daughter. Whether by
design or accident, both films make the father-daughter bond central, defying patriarchy that puts a premium on the son.
Khan brings such affection and humour that is often selfdeprecating, and sheer likeability (even when he is conning the slum dwellers that he is one of them) that you understand and love him because of his flaws. not in spite of them. Khan’s relationship with cousin-cum-rival Deepak Dobriyal rescues Angrezi Medium from some of its embarrassing glitches. Dobriyal is perfect as the comic-comrade-in-arm who is a rascal out to cheat, but has the propensity to spill the truth when drunk. Which he is, every evening, in the company of Champak and another friend. The duo’s misadventures when they reach Heathrow and are separated from Champak’s daughter, who
alone can speak English, strain our credulity — even if they do make you laugh at the moment.
It’s the kind of laughter that makes you immediately question your response. There is just an element of the plausibility of such things happening to Indians whose understanding of English is imperfect, to put it mildly,
but the exaggeration kills it. A good idea that doesn’t have the elasticity to be stretched out so far. What saves Angrezi Medium is Champak’s love for his daughter Tarika (Radhika Madan) even when misunderstandings and her newfound sense of independence causes a temporary breach. Khan is so reliable and relatable that he makes many implausible situations probable. It is his Midas touch that makes the film unmissable.
Yes, the plot is too busy and too many characters sap away the charm that breathes out of every scene set in Udaipur. It is a non-touristy Udaipur of winding narrow streets, lined with mithai shops, where tourists wander in to sample authentic ambience. The story moves at a steady pace, with spurts of necessary drama to thrust it forward.