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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Titu Ambani, Review: Titular harakiri

Titu Ambani, Review: Titular harakiri

You cannot but help notice it. You cannot even overlook it. It is so much in your face. After all, it is the title of the film. And it has nothing to do with the film. India’s richest person is Mukesh Ambani, for a few years in a row, and he also features closely behind the top ten wealthiest persons in the world. In one scene, the lead actor of the film says, “Ambani is Ambani because he has his hand in so many pies.” Very true. No dispute. But does that one line of dialogue justify the naming of your film after the trillionnaire, although it does not have the remotest connection with Mukesh Ambani? Titu Ambani is a serviceable film, which has been done a great disservice by whosoever suggested the title, probably in the hope that millions might flock to the cinemas on reading the name itself.

Titu Shukla (not Ambani) is his full name (Titu is actually a pet-name, but he is never referred to by any other moniker) and he hates working for others. Over the years, he has borrowed lakhs of rupees from his father, who runs a small frame shop, and all of that has sunk without a trace. While his father goes to work on a cycle, he wants a motor-cycle, even a car, and a life-style to go with it. The Shukla family – parents, Titu’s older brother, his wife and young daughter and Titu’s grandfather - live in a small town that is not named but the film was shot in Udaipur, which is a picturesque haven.

His aspirations and dreams are far removed from his actions. He keeps day-dreaming, and finds the shortest way to achieve his goals. Mosmi, his lady-love, works as a cashier in the Electricity Board of the town. She is a girl of today, living life on her own terms, who takes care of his father, who has a debilitating illness, and her mother. She is like the legendary Shravan Kumar for her parents. Mosmi feels that Titu and she are made for each other, but is upset that Titu is avoiding taking a decision about getting married. He wants to become ‘somebody’ before he marries. Towards this end, he starts a catering contract business, which goes awry. Then he wants to start a mineral water plant, but does not have the investment required. In the meanwhile, he does get married after all. And then a major twist comes to his tale, when he gets involved in a multi-level marketing (MLM) scam.

TV serials fame Rohit Raj Goyal, who turns 40 this year, is a Delhi boy who made his directorial debut with Diya Aur Baati Hum, which ran for six years, and went on to direct Jiji Maa and Ishq Subhan Allah. Titu Ambani appears to be his feature film debut, wherein he is credited with the story, screenplay and direction. The script is written very much in television style, with episodic narratives. The story is realistic and could have been inspired by real incidents. Characters come across as slice-of-life, and he does not glorify them by showing lavish lifestyles and huge mansions. Instead, he concentrates on the natural, almost rustic beauty of Udaipur, its by-lanes and its famed lake. Acting is never over the top, except to make a point and, sometimes, to build-up to a one-liner, which does not work always. Dialogues are the work of Abhishek Manoharchanda (written as two words in some places; author of the book Zindagi XXL, in Hindi; writer of the serial Aapatkalin Baithak; must be his screen-writing debut), assisted by Gaurav Shrivastav. There are several lines that aim straight for your heart, because they emerge from well-written situations. One such line is, “A boy is never asked whether he will take care of his parents after marriage or not, but why is it not expected that the girl too will do the same?”

More than the writing and the direction, it is the subject that scores. Almost all the situations give you a sense of déjà vu, and yet there is a freshness of approach. And the end is definitely a twist that nobody will anticipate. Bickering families, loan sharks, lazy son, devoted woman, conscientious father, boozing, hangers-on…we’ve all been there, done that. Yet there is a significant coating of sincerity that saves the film. It does get carried away with one liners and paints the grandfather in unnecessary shades of grey. Mosmi’s father has to wait for several scenes before he gets a line. The small-town hangers-on are characterised as…well…hangers-on, the type you have seen in dozens of films already. Perhaps the film tries to do too much, and suffers in the bargain. Ambitious son, sincere daughter, wise-cracking grandpa, tradition v/s modernity, marriage-go-round, dowry, the pilfering of money from your own, loans for expanding business, inability to pay them, loan sharks, multi-level marketing. Focus is missing.

The main cast comprises

Tushar Pandey as Titu

Deepika Singh as Mosmi

Raghubir Yadav as Titu’s father

Pritamm Jaiswal as Titu’s best friend, Kuku                                                                                                                                                                

Sapna Sand as Titu’s mother

Virendra Saxena as Mosmi’s father

Samta Sagar as Mosmi’s mother

Brijendra Kala as Sajan Chaturvedi, the marriage broker.

They have all done well. It seems that a workshop was conducted, and the actors knew just what they were supposed to do, so that minimal direction was required on the set. Tushar looks a little too young for his role, while Deepika (Mrs. Rohit Raj Goyal in real-life) looks older. Raghubir Yadav breezes through, as always. Virendra Saxena is type cast, but what can you do with his physique and voice? For once, Brijendra Kala’s dialogue was largely comprehensible, and he gets a relatively meaty role too. The three others who could be identified, Pritamm Jaiswal, Sapna Sand and Samta Sagar do justice to their roles. A pity the names of the supporting cast were not available.

Lyrics are by Mayur Puri, who specialises in writing dialogue, writing for dubbing assignments and lyrics. He is thanked in the credit titles, which usually means that he has either worked free or charges much less than his fees. Songs are meaningful, though not catchy. Music directors Bharat-Hitarth have a good job, and often the songs and background music acquire an identity of their own, which might not be in the best interest of the narrative, but is preferable over stock, boring music. Cinematography by Sunil Vishwakarma and editing by Sanjay Sharma are of a above par order, though the first half is too long. At 121 minutes, the length of the film is just about right.                                                                                

Made under the banner of Sabal Productions, Titu Ambani is produced by Mahendra Vijaydan Detha and Dinesh Kumar, the film also has a dedication to Vijaydan Detha, the litterateur whose Rajasthani language books were turned into films and plays like Duvidha, (Director, Mani Kaul, 1973), Charan Das Chor (Director, Shyam Benegal, 1973), Parinati, Director, Prakash Jha, 1989) and Paheli (remake of Duvidha, directed by Amol Palekar). Besides, a number of films have been made on the man himself. He died in 2013. This leads us to think that Mahendra Vijaydan Detha might be his son. But that is not true, as confirmed by the film’s PRO, Ashwani Shukla, of Altair Media. Of course, the two might be related.

A film with a strong feminist message that does not take the crusading approach, but, rather, weaves the message into the story, Titu Ambani could have done with a better title. Anything but Titu Ambani, with is titular Harakiri. Having said that, it is a film that a lot of people living in small towns will identify with, and a few discerning multi-plexers might seek out too. There are no stars or big names associated with the production. And yet, it is possible to make a decent film without them, in a manageable budget. Forget the Ambani’s. Watch Titu’s story.

Rating: ** ½



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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