Yours Truly review: Soni Razdan, Aahana Kumra, Pankaj Tripathi bring energy to an otherwise sombre story
Sanjoy Nag’s English language film Yours Truly is based on Annie Zaidi’s short story ‘The One That Was Announced’.
Mithi Kumar (Soni Razdan) is skating through life, one day at a time. A lonely 50-something woman, she is on the threshold of retirement from a job that she does methodically and without passion. She meanders through her daily routine, showing the occasional spark of interest and gentleness when she interacts with a pregnant co-worker or a neighbour’s daughter. The rest of the time Mithi is a somewhat melancholic woman who makes a soul connection with the voice of the railway announcer.
This faceless, nameless man has been one of the only constant connections in her day for the last many years as she has boarded a train to work in Kolkata. Her interaction with her (largely) chauvinistic colleagues is confined to the office, and she’s unable to warm to her friendly neighbour/tenant Vijay’s (Pankaj Tripathi) efforts at comradeship. One finally sees other dimensions to Mithi when her younger sister Lali (Aahana Kumra) comes visiting.
Mithi’s experiences and interests are rather limited, quite unlike her much younger sister Lali. The contrast is so stark that they seem more like mother and daughter rather than siblings, except when one night Mithi does let go and the sisters make light of a bottle of whiskey.
The comforting voice in the station is a crutch – a fantasy that keeps Mithi afloat. She writes personal letters to this nameless ‘announcer’ and has regular conversations with him in her imagination. We never see Vijay’s wife either. She too is just a voice perforating the peace of the neighbourhood. Vijay’s life is a matter of curiosity, disdain and envy for Mithi just as Vijay is also curious about the quiet, reserved Mithi.
Screenwriter-director Sanjoy Nag’s unhurried English language film is based on Annie Zaidi’s short story ‘The One That Was Announced’. The padding of the story to a feature film length is palpable, particularly the inclusion of songs. Far from serving as immersive, they further distance the audience from the characters. The use of metaphors, such as a newly married young couple on the train and a dead body, is abrupt and unglued.
Nag barely explores the idea of the voice and the woman’s imagination, spending longer spells within the train or in Mithi’s home where she thinks about life and missed opportunities. The most interesting aspect of the story – an imaginary relationship and its resonance during a daily passage through a congested and frenetic station – becomes cursory. Mithi’s other relationships don’t go anywhere either, making it harder to sympathise with a character inexplicably steeped in melancholy and lethargy.
Mahesh Bhatt makes a cameo appearance and it takes a minute to place the voice on the railway public address system as that of Vinay Pathak. Cinematographer Stanley Mudda and Nag use a 4:3 aspect ratio to capture the compactness of Mithi’s life. Her spaces are defined – her home, her office and her train ride with the occasional visit to the market.
Pankaj Tripathi and Aahana Kumra inject much needed energy and lightness into an otherwise sombre story. Soni Razdan conveys the weight of worry, of the uneasy feeling of holding on to a semblance of hope and the overarching feeling of loneliness, with poise. Without recourse to many dialogues or scenes with other actors, Nag leans on Razdan to keep us invested in Mithi’s independence and optimism.
Yours Truly is streaming on Zee5