‘Shiv Shastri Balboa’: Anupam Kher, Neena Gupta Save Forgettable Film

By Shubhra Gupta

Middle-aged ex-banker from Bhopal Shiv Shastri (Kher) arrives in the US, all set to start a new innings. His doctor son (Hansraj) has done well for himself, in possession of a wife, two sons, a neat suburban home, all the trappings of success. As he begins finding his feet in an alien country, all Shastriji wants is to be able to run up those steps in that Pennsylvania building just the way the very famous Rocky Balboa had done in that very famous boxing film which had turned Sly Stallone into a global star. For fanboy Shastri, ‘Rocky’ is not just a film, but a philosophy which he has internalised deeply: an underdog can be a topdog.

His meeting with Elsa-from-Hyderabad (Gupta), who works as a housekeeper in the neighbourhood, allows him to break out of the loneliness the elderly are assailed with. He soon learns that just like him, Elsa too has a wish, but of a different kind. She hasn’t been back to India in eight long years, because the Indian family she serves severely underpays her (so what’s new?), and it has taken her that long to put by some money. Would Shastriji be so kind as to help her get a ticket?

And so begins a road-trip during which the two face challenges (a handbag gets stolen), meet a kindly stranger (Hashmi), struggle with racism (a biker gang has them in their sights), and learn some learnings. The proceedings are predictable, but the film’s affection for its leads is infectious. Both Kher and Gupta face their troubles with a great deal of good cheer, and you cannot help rooting for them as they bump along.

You can do whatever you want, as long as you want it enough. And senior citizens can also have fun. The message is not new. It’s bumper-sticker, yes, but also, quite light and likeable.
Cast: Anupam Kher, Neena Gupta, Sharib Hashmi, Jugal Hansraj
Director: Ajayan Venugopalan
Rating: Two and a half stars — Indian Express