Netflix | Maska Movie Review: Slightly butterly, and delicious

Updated: Mar 30, 2020, 08:26 IST | Mayank Shekhar | Mumbai

Titled Maska (literally butter), derived from the popular Bombay snack, Bun Maska, seems a sobering antidote of sorts to 3 Idiots.

A still from Maska
A still from Maska

on: Netflix
Director: Neeraj Udhwani
Cast: Manisha Koirala, Shirley Setia, Prit Kamani
Rating: Rating

It's been what, over a decade since Rajkumar Hirani's 3 Idiots opened in Indian theatres, and nearly took the world by storm — drawing in the young, over the Internet, in countries such as Turkey, China, towards a mainstream Bollywood movie?

It'll be probably take longer than a decade to dull its effect/impact on the said demographic that remains naturally sold on the bumper-sticker, Paulo Coelho idea of chasing "success" and "dreams". Which is all that life's about. Except, a vocation that isn't "creative" by nature is hardly worth aspiring for. True? Looks like it to me!

This film titled Maska (literally butter), derived from the popular Bombay snack, Bun Maska, seems a sobering anti-dote of sorts to 3 Idiots — as you watch the young boy (Prit Kamani; totally up for the job) in here, riding past a series of city hoardings extolling virtues of high ambition while he imagines a life of riches and fame.

What better way to get to that in Bombay than becoming a movie star, right? That's exactly what he wants to be, ever since he won a neighbourhood pageant, which seeded in him the thought of how his good looks could take him further than his locality.

As a starting point or germ of an idea, this thought appears common for many first-generation movie-stars, by the way, for one to dismiss it altogether. The boy is Parsi. This is then a Parsi film, as it were, that in itself is almost a sub-genre for Hindi cinema. To the rest of India, the representation of Parsis in Bollywood or Hindi pop-culture, might seem slightly disproportionate to their (progressively dwindling) share in India's population (there are about 70,000 of them in all!). But that's because the Hindi film industry is based in Bombay, and practically owes its origins to Parsis, in many ways.

Besides, it's impossible to imagine Bombay, its contemporary history and its proud institutions, without the rich contribution of the community. But, which Bombay are we talking about specifically? South Bombay (in/around Colaba), which is where the lead character has grown up.

How is it different from the entertainment district in North Bombay (Andheri, et al), where he intends to pursue films as a profession/career? As a co-aspirant from out of town puts it in this movie, "For Bollywood folk, Colaba is even further than Ludhiana!" Agree.

There are certainly more starry-eyed folk from Delhi-UP-Punjab than Bombay's own Parsi baugs/colonies in Lokhandwala. In fact, look closely at an old man (Savi Sidhu) in this film who claims to be from Unnao (in UP). This actor, if you recall, played the police commissioner in Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday (2007). Last year, this gentleman was found making his living as a security guard in the city! Here, Sidhu plays a waiter/assistant at a legendary Parsi restaurant/café.

This is the 100-year-old café, with its dedicated clientele and family recipes, that's been bequeathed to the lead character in this picture, while he has set his eyes elsewhere. Here's what we're looking at then: Firstly a film that surveys Bombay's unique but dying Parsi plus Irani cafe culture — as a heartwarming tribute, doffing its hat to institutions such as Brittania and Jimmy Boy (both of which feature on screen).

Watch the trailer of Maska here:

Then, a film about the Parsi community itself, with a charming mom (Manisha Koirala, such a pleasure), dead father (Jaaved Jaaferi, adding masala to the maska), sweet neighbourhood lass (Shirley Setia)… As I said that's a sub-genre of its own. Of which my favourite film, if you wanna know, might be a tough toss-up between Vijaya Mehta's Pestonjee (1988), Waris Hussein's Sixth Happiness (1997), Homi Adajania's Being Cyrus (2005), and Sooni Taraporevala's Little Zizou (2008).

That apart, this is a movie about modern show-business — acting, auditions, and Andheri. As an audience, rest assured this is the part that the filmmakers will have a natural grip over. It's a world they know better than anyone you know. Filmmaker Neeraj Udhwani's writing credits include films Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji, Mere Dad Ki Maruti, and shows Inside Edge and Home.

This is his first feature as writer-director, and by all means, it's sensibly written, competently directed; even if tonally, some portions, in its rhythm and beats, feel more like television. And never mind that you can also tell the end even before the film's begun.

There is still an inherent honesty and humanism in this movie that shines through; and that somewhat reminds you of that other Bombay picture, a relatively hidden gem, Milind Dhaimade's Tu Hai Mera Sunday (2016), that's available on Netflix. Netflix is where Maska has directly dropped as well.

Speaking of which, this might well be the best Netflix Indian original film that I've seen in long (Ruchi Narain's Guilty being a close or distant second, can't tell). Given the platform's track record with critical acclaim lately, I know that's not a huge compliment. But a compliment, nonetheless.

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