- I was surprised when my daughter recommended it to me. She said: “You would like this movie, it's a story about a dadi and her not-so-savvy grandson.”
Recently, I saw “Sardar Ka Grandson” pop up on Netflix. I kept on scrolling, assuming that this may be a Punjabi movie with a macho flair. Perhaps it was a remake or sequel to “Son of Sardaar”(a 2012 movie directed by Ashwni Dhir).After an arduous work day, I was not keen to watch Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt engage in ‘dishoom dishoom’ or explosions in sugarcane fields. I was surprised when my daughter recommended it to me. She said: “You would like this movie, it’s a story about a dadi and her not-so-savvy grandson.”
The producers (Bhushan Kumar, Divya Khosla Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Monisha Advani, Madhu Bhojwani, Nikkhil Advani and John Abraham)hadpurposely fooled me by the title “Sardar ka Grandson.” Sardar, a masculine name for princes, noblemen, chiefs, leaders, and turbaned North Indian men of Sikh faith. But I had forgotten Sikhs have a tradition of transporting masculine names like Jaspreet, Harpreet, Kamaljit etc. to feminine by just adding a suffix kaur, a synonym for miss in English or kumari in Hindi. I fixed myself a large katori of kheer and sat down to watch this dramedy directed by Kaashvie Nair and written by Anuja Chauhan and Kaashvi Nair.
I became a grandma ten years back, and ever since that day, I have come into my mettle. I have realized that I was born to gain notoriety in this role. My temperament is amiable but I confess that I am a tad bit stubborn (God help those who get on my wrong side). It’s but natural that I have admired irascible grandmas on and off screen. My favorite is the crusty dowager of Downton Abbey played by Countess Violet Crawley, the one and only Dame Maggie Smith). Her candid aphorisms, withering looks and haute couture sweeps me off my feet. “A woman of my age can face reality better than most men.” The other hilarious character is Sophia Petrillo played perfectly to the last cheeky wisecrack by Estelle Getty. She is the scrawny, unglamorous, and yet most unforgettable of the Golden Girls TV series from 1985-1992. Sophia Petrillo’s dry sense of humor reminds me of my great grandmother and raconteur: Madame Hukam Devi Mehra, aka Maaji, whose tales of wit were famous in the orchards along the banks of the mighty river Ravi.
But I am certain that the credit of my headstrong gene goes to my paternal grandmother, Madame Krishna Kumari Kapur of Lahore, British India. She was willful and quite “the talk of the town” with her beguiling pink rose and pearls complexion. Her Lahorifriends grew accustomed to her and often turned a blind eye to her shenanigans! Now our own Bollywood actor Nina Gupta as Sardar Kaurhas added her name to the legion of unforgettable grandmas of the silver screen. Neena Gupta is one of the most versatile actors. Lately, I have enjoyed her performance in “Badhaai Ho.” Her nuanced expressions are priceless, her dialogue delivery is polished. When I saw that she was the dadi “Sardar Kaur,” I could not wipe the grin off my face.
My heartbeat quickened, to learn that the movie was filmed in the two historic border towns straddling the line of partition drawn arbitrarily by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, i.e. Amritsar and Lahore. My ancestors migrated from Lahore to Amritsar and settled in Shimla after the partition. They had similar double storied homes with Persian style balconies. Ideal for observing street processions and engage in chit-chats, gossip sessions or full blown street fights with their neighbors. The houses in Amritsar near the Jallianwala Bagh are lined by cobblestone streets and also have similar facades. My grandparents talked with great nostalgia about the homes and hearths they left behind in Lahore.
My dad always wanted to go to Lahore but he never did. He used to recite a poem with so much love in his voice.
Daal dus khan shehar Lahore ander
Kinne boohey tay kinnian barian nein
Naley das khaan aothon dian ittaan
Kinnian tuttian tay kinnian saarian nein…
“There is no place as beautiful as Lahore,
with millions of doors and millions of windows,
sweet wells for water and beautiful maidens
Walking in gardens with their husbands…
It certainly sounds like a Heaven on Earth”.
Dad left Lahore as a teenager, It would have been his dream come true if we all had gone back some day to Lahore but he never voiced his desire. When my sister presented him with his iPad, the first thing he Googled was Nisbet Road, Lahore.I don’t know if my grandson will be able to fulfill my eternal wish to “fly me to the moon.” He is a slippery eel of a boy and can wiggle his way out of corners unlike the bhola-bhala Amreekwho seems a bit slow and ponderous like baloo the bear because his grandma had dropped him as a baby( A fate of many kids in India). But sometimes the unassuming ones are capable of great miracles.
The high spirits portrayed by Sardar Kaur are very characteristic of hardy women of the Punjab, the fertile land of five rivers. Just as is the nature of wealthy grandparents controlling their progeny by promising them the bigger share of their estate. Homes give meaning to our lives. It’s much more than a brick and mortar dwelling. A home is a shelter, a sanctuary, a refuge that holds memories of our loved ones, Sitting, eating, talking, singing, painting and playing together. Morning prayers, fragrant meals, laughter, birdsong, fresh mangoes, silk curtains, the sound of a flute, gleaming floors, pets, gardens, moments of shared triumph and sorrow. My daughter said that she rewound the final scene when Sardar Kaur enters the home of her dreams. She flows like water into the reverberating memories of her youthful days with her beloved husband. She relives her youth by touching the rose painted window panes. There is laughter and tears. It’s authentic. It gives her closure. It’s a true homecoming!
How Amreek Singh manages to convince the Pakistani consulate about his grandmother’s dying wish? How many hurdles does he have to cross? Does he seek help from his old friends and do the people of Lahore come to his aid? To find out more about his journey and to walk on the streets of Lahore, sip chai at a corner bakery, meet Khan uncle or the nifty street kid chhotu. I suggest that you watch the movie. You might even like Soni razdan as the role of a gori-chitti sardarni who packs snacks and digestives for Amreekbut grudges making tea for her extended family but I think she could have had a meatier role.
The movie has a smattering of Hindi and Punjabi. English dialogues written by Amitosh Nagpal who is from Hisar Haryana have a typical Punjabi/Sardar vibe to it as do the characters who mouth them. I was reminded of Violet Crawley’s conversation with her son: “I’m afraid Tom’s small talk is very small indeed.” Robert said “Not everyone can be Oscar Wilde.” But in this case they don’t have to be. Nina Gupta on and off the frames carries the movie “gently gently” with the swig of Lahori whiskey and in her hand knit pink mittens like a true sardarni! Her faithful black rottweiler guard dog would definitely agree! The music score has a catchy folksy feel. I enjoyed the lyrics and beat of “Mein teri ho gayi” and Bandeya!
With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. Monita has published many poems, essays and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.