Sunday, October 19, 2014


Release date:
October 17, 2014
Charudatt Acharya


Rhea Chakraborty, Ali Fazal, Smita Jaykar, Anupam Kher, Swanand Kirkire

If David doesn’t look like David in a David-vs-Goliath film, you know you have a problem.

The film shares its title with a small-time cable Internet agency in Mumbai, the owner of which refuses to sell her shop when a large corporate entity called Shining decides it wants to monopolise the broadband business in the city. Sonali Dattaram Tandel (Rhea Chakraborty) is a feisty, fiery creature who won’t brook nonsense from anyone. Abandoned by her mother in her childhood, now as an adult she mothers her alcoholic father (Swanand Kirkire). If you want to buy out her tiny enterprise, Sonali Cable, you don’t phone her and tell her to visit you in your humungous office building with the intimidatingly massive lobby; you don’t tell her, you make a polite request. Goes without saying that there’s nothing polite about the bullies in suits from Shining.

And thence commences the enmity that almost destroys this gutsy gali ki chhokri, her friendships and especially her relationship with her boyfriend Raghu (Ali Fazal), son of Mumbai politician Meenatai Pawar (Smita Jaykar).

Disappointingly for a film co-produced by veteran Ramesh Sippy and his son Rohan, the lady neta’s name is its only cheeky touch. The late Balasaheb Thackeray’s wife was Meenatai, and Pawar is, well, you know the Pawars. Looks like writer-director Charudatt Acharya was having fun there.

No idea what happened thereafter. The introduction to the disparate cast of characters working with Sonali and the basic plotline are successful in getting viewer interest piqued. Unfortunately, too much unravels too soon in this film.

There are many elements that appear promising – the father-daughter relationship minus the presence of a mother figure (not common in Bollywood films), the personal touch offered by small business operators, the potential collusion between politics and big business, the bleak future of small businesses when that collusion takes place, and more. All this is particularly relevant in the context of the continuing FDI-in-retail-vs-the-future-of-kirana-stores debate. Sadly, Acharya fails to flesh out these elements and take them forward, which is odd considering that his earlier co-writing credits include films vastly superior to this one: the unusual horror flick Vaastu Shastra, the interesting though inconsistent Dum Maaro Dum and the delightfully quirky, layered Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Nautanki Saala (the last two directed by Rohan Sippy). Sonali Cable merely skims the surface of everything it deals with, while our little Ms David and the people at Shining end up looking like clichés.

Besides, though the actors in Sonali’s office and home settings are believable, and Smita Jaykar feels very real as a politician of questionable morals, Rhea Chakraborty sticks out like a sore thumb. She is just too glammed-up to fit the part of a young woman sweating it out in a narrow bylane in lower middle-class quarters in a congested city. She has an expressive face but her makeup is too flawless, her jewellery too well-matched to her stylish, figure-emphasising clothes. In a country where working women are extremely careful about the way they are turned out for fear of being misunderstood, I’m not saying a real-life Sonali Tandel shouldn’t dress like this woman, but that she wouldn’t dress like her on the job in the kind of job she does.

Sonali’s posture too is more like that of a professional model at a studio shoot than a woman running a corner shop. Notice how she stands, her dainty hands planted just above her hips to underline her tiny waist that is already highlighted by her impeccably cut tops. Let’s get real!

Ali Fazal is the cute-looking guy who played Vidya Balan’s boyfriend in Bobby Jasoos earlier this year. Fazal has a likeable screen presence and delivers a neat performance here, despite the half-baked screenplay. The redeeming factor for Chakraborty is that she has good chemistry with him. In fact, they’re hot together when they cuddle up.

The villains in the story never make the transition from cardboard cutouts to real human beings: there’s the sleazy corporation owner (Anupam Kher), his obsequious second-in-command who is out of his depth in the job throughout but is not fired anyway, and a third man who seems far wiser than the second-in-command but does not take over the job. At least Kher’s character boasts of an innovative quirk that is effectively icky: he has a earbud permanently stuck in his ear, thus constantly conjuring up visions of ear wax and – don’t ask me why – people who pick their noses or men who don’t wash their hands after peeing. This, his obsession with khakra and the ridiculous tasks he gives his ever-on-call gori firangi Woman Friday are amusing to begin with, but after a while they become yawn-worthy and you want to see evidence of action in his bustling mega-company beyond those three men mostly cooped up in a room.

The last thing you would expect from Ramesh and Rohan Sippy is a film that looks like it ran out of both money and imagination early on. In addition to better writing and casting, this one needed more extras in more frames and sets that weren’t trying hard to look like natural settings.

Sweetness of intent can’t make up for superficial content. Too much of Sonali Cable feels as if a section of the team lost interest in this project long before it was wrapped up.

Rating (out of five stars): *1/2

CBFC Rating (India):

Running time:
128 minutes

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