‘Sharmajee Ki Beti’ review: A joyous debut that finds meaning in the mundane

Sharmajee Ki Beti is not a film about any one Sharmajee or any one Sharma khandan ki beti. It’s a joyous, sweet film by debutant writer-director Tahira Kashyap Khurrana, whose heart throbs for all betis and their mummyjis.

The film is about many daughters of many Sharmajees whose lives may or may not be connected, but they all follow a similar trajectory.

Specifically, though, Sharmajee Ki Beti is about two middle-class girls, their two middle-class mothers, and one neighbourhood didi.

We first meet Swati Sharma (Vanishka Taparia) as she is laid out on the examination table at a gynaecologist’s clinic in her school uniform.

“Normal,” says the doctor, and Swati’s disappointment soars.

Daughter of Jyoti Sharma (Sakshi Tanwar) and Sudhir Sharma (Sharib Hashmi), Swati is a Class VIII student who can’t stop hyperventilating to her bestie, Gurveen Sharma (Arista Mehta), about being abnormal. She is the only girl in her batch who hasn’t had her periods, or grown a pair. Her hair is like an agitated ball of frizz that won’t be tamed. And when she accosts her well-endowed seniors, she hyperventilates a bit more. Cute Gurveen, a patient listener, reassures her, says she too is awaiting the momentous arrival of her periods, and that all will be well. But Swati just can’t stop.

Swati’s mother, Jyoti, teaches physics at a coaching centre and finds all this concern an irritating waste of time and money. Her life is about getting to work on time and doing her best. She’s always rushing off on her scooter, pausing only to pass on some last-minute instructions to her husband — “Sudhir please, pay the electricity bill”, “Sudhir please, maid ki salary,” Sudhir please, take the clothes out of the washing machine”. Sudhir works the evening shift, and does all this more.

Swati’s school bestie, Gurveen, too has a small problem. She wants her hair gelled and shiny, like the boys.

Her mother, Kiran Sharma (Divya Dutta), recently relocated to Mumbai from Patiala and feels that her life has been upended. Her husband barely has time for her and is rather brusque. So Kiran roams the streets all day, trying to strike a conversation with neighbours, vegetable vendors, anyone who has time. But no one does. So she ends up picking up knick-knacks to decorate her well-appointed flat that doesn’t feel like a home.

Her neighbour Tanvi Sharma (Saiyami Kher) is a young and rising Ranji player whose boyfriend is a struggling actor but won’t stop telling Tanvi how to be, what to wear, what to eat.

Through the lives of these five Sharma girls, Kashyap Khurrana’s film tells many stories of middle-class Indian girls — from their adolescence to adulthood, about growing-up pangs to the trauma of adulting, from acting in school plays to playing the wife, mother, girlfriend, from having dreams to achieving them, from crushes and courtships to marriages that break and daughters who hurt. From mothers who forget to pick up their daughters after school to mothers who spend months on their daughter’s birthday parties. From women who love their work and won’t apologise for it, to women who have forgotten themselves in the service of others.

But the film’s heart lies with Swati.

Sometimes roles write themselves for certain actors. Vanishka was born to play Swati Sharma, the hyperventilating school kid. She is an absolute delight to watch.

Next to her it feels like Arista Mehta’s Gurveen needs some saving, perhaps her own oxygen chamber. Though Arista’s the quieter Gurveen is very good and memorable, Swati is simply outstanding.

I am an admirer of Tanwar’s acting talent. She is always spot-on, and sometimes she is excellent, like in Assi Ghat, where she played Sunny Deol’s wife.

But I feel that her range hasn’t been explored, not just by directors, but even by her. It’s time to step out of the worried mummy role.

Divya Dutta is a very fine actress who can create a range of emotions with the slightest change in expressions. She also wears her heart on her sleeve in most of the roles she does and creates pools of warmth on the screen like few other actors can. But in the last few roles she has done she is leaning more towards pitiable, her characters quiver more than they need to, the mascara leaks more than it has to and her characters seem to be overpowered by a ready-to-weep self-doubt.

In ‘Sharmajee’, the writer and director seemed to be going for strength in dignity for Kiran. And though Dutta is very good as Kiran, she left me feeling sad for “bechari” Kiran, when she really isn’t a bechari.

Kashyap Khurrana has written several books, has directed a short film, Toffee, is mother of two, has battled cancer and is married to actor Ayushmann Khurrana.

Sharmajee Ki Beti, her debut feature film, is about the small things in life — the small creases, the routine stresses, the occasional joys and the debilitating heartaches. It’s easy to make a big film about big things with big characters. But it’s always difficult to write with nuance about the daily occurrences, to find meaning in the mundane, and it’s always challenging to chart out a life through small joys and heartaches.

Watch the film to enjoy the small things that make Sharmajee ki many betis so delightful and real.

Film: Sharmajee Ki Beti

Cast: Sakshi Tanwar, Divya Dutta, Saiyami Kher, Praveen Dabas, Sharib Hashmi, Vanishka Taparia, Arista Mehta, Ravjeet Singh

Direction: Tahira Kashyap Khurrana

Streaming on: Amazon Prime

Rating: 3/5