“There’s a difference between dreams and delusions,” is the underlying message of the lighthearted family drama/comedy “Maska”—cleverly puts across. While most Indian and Nepali films have been telling us that ardently chasing one’s dreams ensures success, Maska dispels the disillusion of the entire cosmos working together to fulfill one’s dream (pun intended). Not all dreams are worth chasing. Sometimes, cultivating the skills you already have is better than chasing a distant dream.
Maska’s storytelling is grounded and the plot somewhat predictable. In fact, Maska is a film in which predictability makes it more interesting as the audience get a chance to identify with Rumi Irani (Prit Kamani), son of Rustom Irani (Javed Jaffrey), the sole heir to the historic Cafe Rustom established in 1920 by his great-grandfather. While Rumi’s mother Diana (Manisha Koirala) wants him to take charge of the iconic café, which has a loyal following among patrons, Rumi has other ideas. He wants to be a film star and is taking acting classes and auditioning for roles. The mother-son clash when their dreams collide and a drastic step Rumi takes to fulfill his dream is the story of Maska.
The low-budget, independent film not only captures the nuances of a mother-son relation but also gives space to real life history of the famous Irani Cafes in Mumbai, which hold a special place in the history of the place. Opened by Zoroastrian Iranians who came to British India in the 20th century when they were fleeing Islamic persecution in West and Central Asia, the cafes played a big role in the popularization of Iranian cuisines in Mumbai. The fares they serve mostly consisted of Irani tea, biscuits, samosas and the famous bun maska (bun and cream) from which the film gets its name.
So with the story of the mother-son conflict and ‘dreams and delusions’ as the front, Maska—written and directed by Neeraj Udhwani—is a coming-of-age tale that also celebrates posterity, heritage, legacy and antiquity, in this rapidly changing world.
Rumi’s mother Diana, who took over the cafe after her husband’s untimely demise, lives with his fond memories. She has preserved her husband’s apparels and accessories and hands them over to her son on his birthdays.
Diana also doesn’t want to change anything in the restaurant. She even repairs the almost 100-year-old furniture to preserve the original essence of the place. Also, the cafe is tied to the lives and memories of many of its patrons, some of whom have been visiting for decades. Rumi’s dilemma is between continuing with his father’s legacy or pursuing his dream. A mama’s boy who has already taken the huge step of moving in with his non-Farsi girlfriend Mallika Chopra (Nikita Dutta), Rumi is also split in matters of the heart when his neighbor Persis Mistry (Shirley Setia) starts getting intimate with him.
On the acting front, our very own heartthrob Manisha Koirala makes yet another resounding comeback. As a Farsi single mother, Manisha weaves her charisma into the role and has us almost believing she is one of the Zoroastrian Iranian women from the Ferozshah Baag Colony in Colaba, Mumbai. Whatever little awkwardness she has in diction while switching between Farsi, Hindi and English, she makes up with her high energy and kindred spirit.
Javed Jaffrey, whose voice narrates the film as Rustom and who also appears in the imagination of his son Rumi, adds humor to the film with his impeccable comic timing. Although not famous for playing lead roles in Bollywood, Javed has honed his skills for decades and in his role as Rustom Irani he proves why he has thrived in the industry for so long.
Newcomer Prit Kamani doesn’t fall behind his veteran co-actors either. As a young and confused man on the verge of a personal rebellion, Prit is both convincing and entertaining.
Who should watch it?
Despite the film being mostly pleasant, the 1hr 51mins runtime feels a bit stretched. The film’s subject perhaps asked for a shorter script. Nonetheless, Maska is definitely a family entertainer and if you don’t mind having to read the subtitles (because some Farsi words might be completely new to you), you will definitely enjoy the Netflix special.