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Is Vidya Balan the Sridevi of 2017?

Trailer review: Tumhari Sulu

Will Tumhari Sulu crown Vidya Balan as Bollywood’s comedy queen?
Will Tumhari Sulu crown Vidya Balan as Bollywood’s comedy queen?

A few years ago, in a newspaper interview, actor Lara Dutta was asked to name her favourite comic actress (or something to that effect—neither do I remember, nor has Google been very helpful). Her answer seemed immediate: Sridevi. Dutta added that she couldn’t think of any other female actor after the Mr. India diva who could pull off comedy like a queen.

While we did have Kareena Kapoor tickle our funny bone in Jab We Met and the Golmaal series and Kangana Ranaut leave us in splits in Queen and Tanu Weds Manu Returns, they didn’t really bring everything to the table. What we as an audience were seeking was versatility, range, consistency, and a certain kind of energy—elements that set Sridevi apart from her contemporaries as well as successors.

And then the trailer for Tumhari Sulu dropped, starring Vidya Balan. While Balan scores full marks in experimentation with roles over the years, it’s a pity that she never got a cinematic platform to showcase her comic talent successfully. Especially when her showbiz debut was Hum Paanch, a crazy sitcom that ruled primetime television in the 90s. Her role as the nerdy, clumsy Radhika Mathur had every ingredient to make us ROFL. No wonder her untapped humour potential in films so far has been disheartening. (You may counter with Ghanchakkar, Shaadi Ke Side Effects, and Bobby Jasoos. While I admit I haven’t viewed any of them, I don’t think any of her roles in these are memorable or mention-worthy, and she certainly deserves better.)

Tumhari Sulu, however, offers hope. As a simple homemaker who moonlights as a seductive late-night RJ, Balan is not just perfect—she’s irreplaceable. She stands out on her own while also complementing everyone else in the film, including a comparatively glammed-up Neha Dhupia (perfectly cast, but what’s with her eyebrows?). Balan is such a delight in the trailer that I forgave the sudden switch in her RJ accent, plus her moments with her on-screen husband (Manav Kaul) that appear a bit too stretched. The Sridevi throwback is unmistakable, with the remixed version of Hawa Hawaii (so peppy and foot-tapping) and the saree-waving celebratory mode reminiscent of English Vinglish. The jokes could be much better, but it’s just a trailer, so we can give it a benefit of the doubt. And the sudden dramatic twists really made me sit up.

Tumhari Sulu is an important film for not just Balan but also anyone and everyone who loves a good laugh. We could really do with a comedy queen in this day and age, and that’s why the movie needs to work. Else, there’s always Radhika Mathur. And Sridevi.

Here’s the official trailer:


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