Why This Kalki-Naseeruddin Starrer Was Worth The Wait
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Kalki Koechlin, Rajat Kapoor, Arjun Mathur, Suhasini Maniratnam , Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, Rajiv Ravindranathan
Director: Anu Menon
If you are looking for happy fluff, song and dance, and melodramatic elements of a masala potboiler, then Waiting is definitely not for you. But, if you are looking for emotions, a slice of real life and a plot that grips you, do take time out to catch the Kalki-Naseeruddin Shah starrer that is quietly making an impact in darkened theatres. London-based director Anu Menon breathes life into a situation that almost all of us, at some point in our lives, have to face – the reality of having a loved one in the ICU and waiting, waiting, waiting for the outcome, either positive or tragic.
It is heartening to see directors explore subjects not normally dealt with on the silver screen to this extent. We have still not forgotten Piku and its treatment of a sensitive topic, and here comes Waiting, taking a look at another, more serious medical issue.
The action takes place in Kochi – and for a large part, a hospital is the stage. Two strangers – Shiv Natraj and Tara Deshpande – are bonded by a shared experience of having a dear one battle for life. Shah brings a wealth of experience to make the old man real. His Shiv is human – and humane – and with astounding maturity remains positive through a struggle that has gone on for months. Yes, there are moments when his frustration comes through, but if that didn’t he would not be human. And, Tara, younger and jerkier in her reactions to her husband’s more recent accident, is a natural counterfoil to the older Shiv.
Dealt sensitively, the storyline brings to light several issues that patients and their family members face, the platitudes that very often doctors utter when no easy solutions are available. But, if the characters – especially Tara – had spoken just a little less and through more silences expressed her inner trauma – the rendition would have gained a greater impact. At times, they tend to state the obvious.
The interaction between Tara and Shiv reveals the varying emotions that they are going through – anger, despair, frustration, depression…and then the waiting. Menon brings out the generation gap through many moments (the ‘48-hours are crucial’ statements, the reference to Twitter is one – Tara tells Shiv it is like a notice board). Outside the waiting room, the two leads interact in situations that mirror their inner mindsets and try and find a resolution. The dance in Shiv’s house is a catalyst, helping the protagonists resolve some issues. And not wanting to give away a spoiler alert, let me just say here, waiting takes waiting far beyond Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot did, and in a more relatable environment.
The supporting cast is able – Rajat Kapoor as the doctor, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee as Tara’s friend Ishita – and provides the social setting for the emotional drama.
Young, abrupt, impatient, Kalki once again delivers an outstanding performance as she grows to accept the situation she is in. But, if Waiting were said to belong to one person, undoubtedly that person is Naseeruddin Shah. The veteran actor whom I last saw in the play Einstein effortlessly wins hearts.
But, more power to both Kalki and Naseer. Let the twain meet again.