“Sir”: Soul-stirring Tale of Emotional Intimacy, Dreams, and Belonging


By Renuka Vyavahare

Story: Soulmates are found in the most unexpected places. Two people divided by societal norms and united by their quiet love, understanding and mutual respect, empower each other as they exchange meaningful glances, speak through silences and wonder what lies ahead for them.

Review: The male protagonist of the film — U.S returned architect Ashwin (Vivek Gomber), while discussing relationship woes with a friend says, that he can’t be the guy who messages or calls a woman randomly if that’s what she expects. A few scenes later, he picks up the phone and calls Ratna (Tillotama Shome), his live-in Maharashtrian maid, who is on a 3-day leave for her sister’s wedding in a village. A bit lost without her in his own house, when asked by her, “Sir, Kuch kaam tha kya?”, he replies after a brief pause, “Nahi, Aise hi phone kiya.” They don’t talk much but that phone call is enough for either to know what it means. Love makes you do things you tell yourself you won’t.

Director Rohena Gera’s SIR comprises exquisite moments like these. They help you interpret unsaid feelings between two people, who find their soulmate in the most unlikely scenario. Gera masterfully uses the language of silence and juxtaposes the lead characters to bring out their commonalities despite the massive class disparity. Loneliness and emotional turmoil doesn’t differentiate between the rich and poor.

Unlike most stories of this genre, the romantic drama doesn’t follow the ‘rich boy-poor girl’ template which expects the woman to be a silent sufferer or sacrificer and the man to be the saviour. Ratna may not be educated or an articulate speaker but she is a resilient fighter, who admonishes societal norms. A young widow, she knows more about life and survival than a New Yorker in Mumbai nursing a broken relationship. She completes him in ways he finds hard to decipher. She gives him courage to chase his dreams as she herself tries to pursue hers, despite her limited resources. This isn’t your typical fairy-tale of a rich man uplifting a poor woman. Here the prince doesn’t need his Cinderella to show up in a gorgeous gown, great makeup and glass stilettos. He falls for her even as she goes on doing her daily household chores because she understands him better than anybody else.

Ratna firmly says she wants to be a fashion designer when Ashwin ‘sir’ asks her if she hopes to be a tailor. In her world, dreams don’t come with a class certificate. And in his, societal labels find more prominence than feelings. In a Julia Roberts-esque scene from Pretty Woman, the maid is shown the door and humiliated when she tries to check out an upscale fashion boutique in Mumbai. But nothing deters her from telling herself that a servant too has the right to become who she wants to be. The writing doesn’t reek of prejudice or hate but optimism and hope, even as the treatment stays nuanced and realistic. When Ashwin’s friend asks him, ‘how can you possibly date your maid!’, the remarks aren’t condescending but concerning for a third person who isn’t blinded by love.

With a run-time of under 2 hours, the film has a simmering, sensual mood to it. What stands out is the captivating emotional intimacy that unfolds in an unhurried manner. The characters barely touch or speak to each other but the proximity is palpable. This is hard to find in contemporary love stories.. If it sounds biased, so be it but women make beautiful love stories because their mind sees things that men miss out on.

The moody cinematography cleverly uses Mumbai, the sea and spaces within the sprawling house in a plush high-rise as a significant character. The city, a land of opportunities is an equaliser. Two people who are drawn to each other but refrain from saying so, live in the same house in adjacent rooms. The walls that separate them are also metaphorical, implying Ratna and Ashwin’s so-close-yet-so-far status.

Tillotama Shome and Vivek Gomber are outstanding as two people who must reveal and conceal what they feel. To strike a balance between expression and refrain, innocence and courage — Ratna and Ashwin are tricky characters to portray. The actors infuse simplicity, sincerity and a sense of inherent compassion and niceness to the story. ‘SIR’ without these two would be impossible to comprehend. Tillotama in particular renders one of her finest performances. She keeps you emotionally invested in the story and evokes empathy without letting her character wallow in self pity. Vulnerable yet feisty, Geetanjali Kulkarni in her significant supportive role as Ratna’s confidante Laxmi, offers an outside perspective to the prevalent class divide. Ratna and Laxmi’s soulful conversations and scooter rides are liberating.

Very rarely do you stumble upon a love story that ends as beautifully as it begins. This one is unmissable. — Times of India