When the Irrfan Khan-starrer “Hindi Medium” was released in mid-2017, the film shocked the Indian cinema industry. With an organic story and peanuts in production cost, the film took home over $45 million, making it one of the highest grossing movies in Bollywood. With a relatively unknown cast, the film had relied on its grounded story and skillful storytelling to highlight the importance of “English medium” education, something which the Indian (and Nepali) audiences could easily identify with and thus paid money to watch.
Unfortunately, taking up the same subject, and with Irrfan Khan retained in the lead, “Angrezi Medium” does not live up to its hype. In fact, it is way below par compared to Hindi Medium. Directed by Homi Adajania, and with its huge star cast of popular Bollywood actors that include Kareena Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Ranvir Shorey and Pankaj Tripathi, Angrezi Medium fails to connect with the audience. Plus, a host of other Bollywood actresses appear in the film’s OST “Kudi Nu Nachne De,” but the song doesn’t impress either.
Angrezi Medium is a story of a father and daughter—Champak (Irrfan) and Tarika Bansal (Radhika Madan)—who only have each other in their lives. Champak is a sweetshop owner based in Udaipur, Rajasthan, who has to constantly compete against his stepbrother Gopi Bansal (Deepak Dobriyal) over the ownership of the famous “Ghasiteram Misthan Bhandar” brand. His daughter Tarika, meanwhile, has always had a dream of visiting a foreign country, and now wants to leave for the UK for further studies.
Champak, a simpleminded, middle-class man, who loves his daughter so much that he doesn’t want her to go too far away, agrees nonetheless. Despite their enmity, the stepbrother Gopi, who is also childless because of his wife’s early demise, loves Tarika like his own daughter. He too is determined to help Champak get her admitted to “Truford University” in London. Now despite their good intent and total naivety, the Bansal brothers also seem fickle-minded and keep messing up opportunities for their daughter. Their struggle to get her to UK and then to admit her comprises the whole plot.
The film builds on an interesting premise that looks to address the elephant in the room for millions of South East Asian parents and children: English is just a language and not a signifier of a person’s intellectuality. And a degree in the West is just a degree. It doesn’t make you a better person.
But with a bigger production budget, the same production team that set up the success of its uncomplicated predecessor now experiments a lot. They hire popular actors who have driven films on their own to be supporting actors and give them screen-time to justify their presence, needlessly lengthening the movie.
Multiple characters, scenes and subplots in Angrezi Medium do not contribute to the story and could have been left out. Some sequences feel lethargically extended for lack of a rigid script and even the otherwise brilliant Khan seems a victim of all the confusion going around. The actor doesn’t seem to grasp his character and yet is forced to perform monologues and speak broken English, which doesn’t ignite the same laughter it did in the previous movie.
Who should watch it?
Angrezi Medium might have its weaknesses but a film with so many talented actors can’t be dismissed outright either. If the theaters are still open by the time you read this, please wear your masks and carry your hand sanitizer. Otherwise, wait for it on Netflix.