Shiv Shastri Balboa Movie Review:
Deepa Gehlot says Shiv Shastri Balboa is a melodious drama that raises the issue of letting elders live with dignity.
Shiv Shastri’s Balboa, which hit the theaters without any pre-release buzz, turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
Very few people get the Rocky connection right away, but the film – produced by Anupam Kher and written and directed by Ajayan Venugopalan – is a sweet drama that makes a case for seniors to live with dignity.
What is the story
Retired bank employee Shiv Shastri (Kher) is so obsessed with Rocky (Sylvester Stallone-starrer) that he not only left behind inspirational dialogues from the film but also launched a boxing club in his colony, which miraculously produced champions Are.
When the film opens, he has decided to pack up and move to America to be with his son Rahul (Jugal Hansraj) and his family.
He is treated with love and kindness – no bad daughter-in-law, dirty baby clichés – but has a huge loneliness problem.
Accustomed to the hustle and bustle of neighboring India, he finds the days dragging on in indolence. He hopes to go to Rocky Steps in Philadelphia, but the son does not have time to go with him.
He then meets Elsa (Neena Gupta), a maid to an Indian family who has been enslaved for eight years by her employers.
She wants to return home to see her granddaughter and asks Shastri for help.
On a whim, he decides to accompany her on the bus ride to New York, with the lovable family pug (who’s got his own thought bubbles) insisting on coming along.
The two clueless seniors embark on the adventure of a lifetime, which begins with Elsa’s handbag being snatched, containing her money and passport.
Shastri is sure that if he can find an Indian in the strange place he finds himself in, he will be helped, and his guess turns out to be correct.
They land at a gas station and convenience store run by Daalchini Singh (Sharib Hashmi), who reluctantly gives them a job and a small house until Elsa gets a duplicate passport.
Rahul is shocked to see his father make a bevy of friends, but for Shastri, the feeling of being free and unencumbered by expectations of how a senior should behave is priceless.
There are hints of racism and violence, but also an encounter with the great American symbol of non-conformity – the biker gang.
The brutality Shastri and Elsa face are not a ‘get back’ from the white goons but from Elsa’s employers.
Laughter and Emotional Drama
The film frequently stretches the possibility but retains its gentle humor and notable lack of melodrama.
The friendship that develops between Shastri and Elsa is intimate yet adorable.
Aspiring Bhangra-rapper ‘Dalchini Singh’ is a hoot.
Despite the inconsistency of Elsa’s extensive wardrobe of beautiful handloom sarees, Neena Gupta delivers another stellar performance as the Hyderabadi Elsa who, with a few pegs under the hatch, can face anything life throws her way.
Anupam Kher, as the shy Shastri who finds the true meaning of life only late in the day, turns into a charmer.
Sharib Hashmi and Jugal Hansraj (always good to see actors who had to struggle to break out of their innocent moppet image) slip into their parts with ease.
This is Ajayan Venigopalan’s first feature film, and he wisely decided to keep it simple and focus on emotions.
He is helped by an experienced cast, but in the end, it is the well-deserved warmth that impresses the film audience and makes it worth a watch.