Angrezi Medium critic reviews: A confusing film that even Irrfan Khan can't save
Angrezi Medium — Irrfan Khan's first release in two years, as he continues battling a critical illness — starts off with a lot of promise with the father-daughter bond at its core. But the film's message doesn’t land as well as it should have.
Confusion is the name of the game in Angrezi Medium. Irrfan Khan's Champak Bansal is an Udaipur-based mithai shop owner, who is forever in two minds. He is inevitably pulled in contrary directions, whenever he has to make an important decision. Much like Champak, critics argue that the film is confused. It's about two halves and two ideas — one that talks about dreaming and going out into the world to fulfil those dreams, and the other that says that a child’s dream of freedom equals rebellion, and can only come at the cost of losing emotional intimacy with the parents.
A sequel to the 2017 hit, Hindi Medium — which also starred Irrfan Khan with Saket Chaudhary in the director’s chair — Angrezi Medium explores the same idea of a parent pulling out all the stops to ensure that his child gets a shot at a good education. While Hindi Medium seamlessly oscillated between making a comment on classism to invoking laughter organically, Angrezi Medium wants to be a commentary on many things, sometimes all at once, but most of it doesn’t land as well as it should have, argue film critics.
Angrezi Medium starts off by balancing humour with heart and establishing the indelible bond between Champak, and his daughter Tarika (Radhika Madan). A single parent, Champak dotes on Tarika, although he isn’t really on board with her childhood dream of studying in London. Tarika’s goal of flying the nest, and living in a foreign land, is more romanticised than real, fuelled by watching the British royal weddings on TV and lurking on the sets of the odd Hollywood film shot in her hometown. On the cusp of 18, Tarika secures a seat in a London university on merit, but Champak’s inadvertent words and actions jeopardise her future, prompting him to promise her that he will do all it takes to ensure that she makes it to London.
According to film critics, Angrezi Medium benefits from the easy and heartwarming chemistry between Irrfan Khan and Radhika Madan. The scenes between the two in the first half bring on the smiles and the odd lump in the throat. Director Homi Adajania (Cocktail, 2012) competently mines small-town quirks to add tone and texture to the first hour. One critic pointed out that a delightful courtroom scene involving Irrfan Khan's Champak, and Deepak Dobriyal's Ghasiteram Bansal, aka Gopi, embroiled in a battle over a trademark in their confectionery business is especially memorable.
But the curse of the second half overturns much of the good work, agree most critics. The action shifts to London, prompting Adajania to lose focus of the core of his film, and cram it with subplots and situations, most of which have little or no bearing on the story. Seasoned actors like Dimple Kapadia and Pankaj Tripathi are wasted in badly written roles. Actress Kareena Kapoor Khan, appearing in a couple of scenes as a perpetually angsty London cop, gets the worst deal, her role being strictly disposable.
It’s left to Irrfan Khan and Deepak Dobriyal to do much of the heavy lifting to keep Angrezi Medium afloat. The two play off each other well, with Irrfan ensuring that you do walk out with a smile — despite the film’s overbearing sexist worldview — once the lights come on. Welcoming back, Irrfan.
Ahead, a look at what some of the critics have said about Irrfan Khan's Angrezi Medium:
Shubhra Gupta in The Indian Express: "Angrezi Medium could just as well have been called Irrfan Returns. Watching this terrific actor lighting up the screen, of knowing about his medical struggles, and the fact that he did this film while still in treatment, gives it a special bittersweet flavour. Hindi or Angrezi, whatever the medium, Irrfan is truly the message, transmitting directly from the heart. Dil se."
Saibal Chatterjee in NDTV: "Angrezi Medium is a tiresome romp that hurtles out of control even before it's got any sort of rhythm going. It is at sixes and sevens as it strains to add up the awkward situations that Champak repeatedly lands himself in. Irrfan plays the part with customary flair but consistency eludes the film... The writers are unable to stitch together the padding that could serve to hide the film's creases, play down the insubstantiality of the principal idea, and hold a two-and-a-half-hour movie together. More than the film, it is Irrfan that the flaccid, wayward script lets down."
Rajeev Masand in News18: "The heavy lifting is left up to Irrfan Khan and Deepak Dobriyal, who play off each other so well it’s like watching a perfectly synchronised dance. Deepak, who is supremely talented but vastly underrated, brings little moments of physical humour to complement the rat-a-tat verbal exchanges; he is one of the film’s big strengths. And yet it’s impossible to overlook the script’s old-fashioned, and frankly outdated worldview when it comes to parent-child politics. We’re in 2020 and Indian parents – certainly according to this film – will continue to emotionally blackmail and guilt their kids into doing exactly what they want."
(All photos courtesy Maddock Films, Homi Adajania, and Radhika Madan's official Instagram accounts.)