Film preview

It’s a goal for football film ‘Tu Hi Mera Sunday’

Milind Dhaimade’s debut movie is a fuzzy and feel-good comedy that uses football as a metaphor to explore the city’s shrinking spaces.

When Indian filmmakers reach for sporting metaphors to make sense of the world, cricket is usually the game of choice. But Milind Dhaimade’s debut feature Tu Hai Mera Sunday kicks its way down a different path: he uses football to explore the severe shortage of open spaces in Mumbai as well as the lack of emotional elbow room. Tu Hai Mera Sunday is in the Indian competition section at the Mumbai Film Festival (October 20-27). The movie will be shown at MFF after being screened at the BFI London Film Festival, and will be released in India in early 2017.

Tu Hai Mera Sunday captures a ritual that will be familiar to Mumbai residents. Every Sunday, a group of friends meets at Juhu beach to play football. One of the members, Arjun (television heartthrob Barun Sobti), adopts an old man in the early stages of dementia (Shiv Subramaniam). The old man causes an accident that leads to football being banned from the beach. From this scenario, Dhaimade weaves a feel-good yarn about friendship, romance, and the eternal quest for a small spot of peace in the most crowded metropolis in India.

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The movie draws from Dhaimade’s personal experiences. An advertising filmmaker who grew up in Walkeshwar in South Mumbai and has lived for over two decades in Santa Cruz in the north, Dhaimade mined his knowledge of the city to write a screenplay that captures its often invisible rhythms and habits, mongrel speech patterns, and typical characters. “The seed of the film came from knowing this football evangelist friend of mine, Vinay Kanchan, who was instrumental in creating a group which plays football at Juhu beach every Sunday, aptly called Juhu Beach United,” Dhaimade said. “Now these guys are pretty legendary. So one day I was wondering what would happen to these guys if they couldn’t play football at the beach? That was the jumpstart to writing the script.”

The film was initially titled Juhu Beach United, but since that title was already registered by another producer, Dhaimade dipped into the lyrics of one of the songs composed by Amartya Rahut for the new title.

Football serves as a starting point to look at the ways in which Mumbai has changed and continues to be transformed by its obsession with constructing buildings over every available inch of available land. The film is, however, not a dirge for the near-absence of an concrete-free stretch in the city. Tu Hai Mera Sunday also functions as a delayed coming of age narrative. All the characters are in their mid- or late twenties, but they have decided to drop out. Rather than chasing fat salaries and shimmying up the corporate ladder, each of the movie’s male characters is trying to delay adult responsibilities such as marriage and steady employment.

Sobti’s Arjun is a sweet-natured and laidback business school product who has quit his job to set up a consultancy firm. He lives with his sister’s family and falls for the senile old man’s daughter Kavya (Shahana Goswami) at first sight, but takes the entire film to confess his feelings to her.

Shahana Goswami and Barun Sobti in ‘Tu Hai Mera Sunday’.
Shahana Goswami and Barun Sobti in ‘Tu Hai Mera Sunday’.

The lack of outdoor space is mapped over the inner jostlings of Barun’s friends. Dominic (Vishal Malhotra) lives with his widowed mother and bristles when his brother returns from abroad with a girlfriend. Rashid (Avinash Tiwary) is a Casanova who finds himself drawn to his married neighbour (Rasika Dugal) and her hearing-impaired sons. Mehernosh (Nakul Bhalla) has a hellish boss and an exploited secretary to whom he is attracted, while Jayesh (Jay Upadhyay) is from a traditional, ritual-addicted family that he yearns to escape.

“Only when I got down to writing did I realise that I wanted to make it a more personal story and more than just about football,” Dhaimade said. “So I started adding bits and pieces from my life, my friends and my experiences growing up in Mumbai and meshed everything into this story.”

The characters and their easy camaraderie are echoes of people the filmmaker has known over his life in the city. “Diversity is the hallmark of Mumbai,” Dhaimade said. “Growing up, and then in college, I’ve had such a diverse bunch of friends. I have met such interesting characters that it would be impossible not to be influenced by all that. I used to play football in college and later I used to play with the Juhu Beach United gang. For me, the real memories were about the camaraderie after the games – when we all gathered together at an Irani, or at a tea stall. That banter is precious and it would be foolish of me not to exploit it.”

‘Tu Hai Mera Sunday’.
‘Tu Hai Mera Sunday’.

The screenplay’s first draft ran into 200 pages – as is to be expected from a cross-weave of characters and experiences.

“For me it’s one story, of space, seen from the perspective of different people living in this city,” Dhaimade said. “That helped me keep focus and fuse the characters seamlessly.” The naturalistic and slang-laden tone of the dialogue fell into place much more easily. “It’s not so difficult when your characters have been drawn from life,” Dhaimade said. “I love that kind of writing and am very particular when I write my screenplays to keep the language of the characters real. When dialogue is free of encumbrances such as plot and transparent motives, they automatically become conversational and less preachy.”

As the characters hunt for places to play football, they end up in a housing society complex, where, naturally, cricket is given preference. The characters travel to Goa, which seems to be the logical destination for the space-starved men and women, but it’s only a getaway, not a solution.

“Let’s leave Bombay,” one character says half-heartedly, only to be told that “All of India is becoming one big Bombay.”

Despite its light-hearted and fuzzy tone, Tu Hi Mera Sunday is a lament for a city that used to be gentler, less crowded and even, dare we say, beautiful. “The loss of personal space is the measure of prosperity for this city,” Dhaimade said. “Or maybe the people rather have tiny islands of happiness than one big happy island.” Mumbai is a mess six days of the week, but on the seventh, god rests, and optimism takes over.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.