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Tarla Review: Huma Qureshi-Sharib Hashmi Starrer Has Its Heart In The Right Place

It’s Huma Qureshi who makes you root for Tarla from the word go. The best way to describe her flawless and incredible performance is by admitting that I actually forgot I was watching Huma.

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A still from Tarla

IN one sequence in Tarla Dalal, Huma Qureshi, who plays the titular celebrity cookbook writer, can’t stop feeling guilty when she is told that her son hasn’t been eating, and is diagnosed with early signs of Atrophic gastritis, a disease diagnosed in children from Africa who are at the risk of starvation and malnutrition. It is a grim situation, and fuels feelings of remorse, embarrassment, shame and defeat in Tarla. It is emotionally painful to hear her say, “Kaisi maa hun, puri duniya ko khana banana sikha rahi hun aur khud ka beta nahi kha raha. (What sort of a mother am I? I’m helping everyone learn the basics of cooking food, when my own child isn’t eating.)

This emotional moment, which reveals the stress she undergoes for not being able to spend much time with her kids, is one of the very few unfamiliar glimpses into the Padma Shri winner and the original creator of the Indian cookbook industry. Since there has never been a movie or a series on the champion of vegetarian cooking in India, the film looks original and unexpected, courtesy the script that focuses on her personal predicaments and professional victories.

Watch the trailer of ‘Tarla’.

Early on, we learn that she is career-oriented, and is keen on charting her career, but lacks goal clarity. As Tarla stares at her professor (played by Bhawana Somaya), she says “Ma’am chalte chalte baat karti hain, baat karte karte karte chalti hain. Kahin to ja rahi hai… life mei kahin jaa rahi hai. (While walking she talks, while taking she walks. She is going somewhere… she is on a journey in life.) But all her dreams came to a naught when her parents get her married to a ‘suitable boy’ aka Bambay wala engineer Nalin Dalal (Sharib Hashmi) because “sahie samay pe shaadi ho jae toh bachche bhi tandrust hote hain”.

Nalin had promised that Tarla would be allowed to pursue her dreams, yet after the wedding, life does a volte-face, she bears 3 children, is happy cooking for husband and her dream of “kuch karna hai” ends with marriage. She represents exactly what our society showcases – a culture wherein women are still expected to look after their families and have no “personal” goals or dreams after marriage. But is that where the story ends? Nah!

It is interesting to see how the makers use – marriage, which is often projected as a goal for a woman, work in Tarla’s favour. Since marriage is treated as a woman’s “primary” goal, it has made our society to believe that every woman wants to be a housewife and has no expectations from her own life. How Tarla uses the patriarchal belief to make money, help women understand cooking and help them achieve their goals is heartening.

To be fair, the movie has a nice charm to it, despite a few expected twists and turns. The couple’s first meet-cute moment at Tarla’s residence and Nalin enjoying a non-veg meal at his workplace are particularly enjoyable, and there are other lovely moments too, including Tarla’s makeover session, waiter’s sudden switch from chaste English to ‘thaeth’ Haryanvi while talking about the impact of Tarla’s cookbook.

Refreshingly genuine, even the conversations – around marriage, women’s dreams after marriage, women’s capability to realise their dreams – lead you right into the heart and the rationale of the film. Like that identifiable scene when Nalin’s boss appreciates him for supporting his wife’s dreams and calls him an inspiration because “aurat ke successful hone ke liye peeche khade hone wala aadmi nahi milta” is significant in making men realize the need to make their partner feel important and respected.

Director Piyush Gupta is convincing in capturing Tarla’s pain, concerns and achievements. By putting forth Tarla’s resolve, her need to be successful, and her confidence in turning into a tutor and subsequently an author, Piyush makes a case for the viewers to open up their mind and realize that nothing ends if you stay firm and determined about your goals.

The film benefits a lot from its strong and convincing casting. It isn’t easy to find fault with the actors who land even smaller parts, like the waiter in Indian restaurant or Tarla’s brother younger brother or the scrap dealer who helps Tarla in getting her book distributed.

Sharib Hashmi yet again slips into the skin of his character. He plays a supportive husband with the right touch of credibility, even showing bursts of jealousy and self doubt.

Ultimately, it’s Huma Qureshi who makes you root for Tarla from the word go. The best way to describe her flawless and incredible performance is by admitting that I actually forgot I was watching Huma. The actor delivers a nuanced, raw and skillfully comical performance, and the director rightfully builds his film around his plucky heroine.




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