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Masand's Movie Review: Little Zizou captures the lazy charm of Parsis

Mar 13, 2009 11:12 PM IST India India

Director: Sooni Taraporevala
Cast: Boman Irani, Imaad Shah, Jehan Batiwala,Sohrab Ardeshir

A light-hearted comedy that looks inwards at the Parsi community in Mumbai, Little Zizou - written and directed by Sooni Taraporevala - is for audiences with broad tastes. The director's own son Jehan Batiwala playes Xerxes, a 10-year-old football fanatic who dreams that his dead mother will bring Zenedine Zidane to Mumbai. His brother Art (played by Imaad Shah) is a cartoon-sketching teenager who spends his days trying to construct a flight simulator with his friends. Both boys share a strained relationship with their father Cyrus Khodaji II (played by Sohrab Ardeshir), a self-proclaimed protector of the Parsi faith, whose hunger for power earns him brickbats in the free thinking community newspaper run by liberal-leaning editor-publisher Boman Pressvala (played by Boman Irani).

Using the clash between Khodaji and Pressvala, the film addresses the issue of religious fundamentalism, and writer-director Taraporevala makes gentle jabs at the intolerant attitude of conservative Parsis unwilling to accept outsiders into their faith.

The film also focuses on the Khodaji boys, who enjoy hanging out at Pressvala's house. Art, you see, burns with unrequited love for Pressvala's older daughter, while Xerxes incurs the wrath of the younger daughter who resents the attention her family showers on the motherless kid.

Little Zizou is filled with warm little moments that are born out of the director's sharp understanding of the Parsi community, and her ability to bring their quirks and charms to the screen. But it's also true that much of the film drags on indulgently, with little regard for the viewer's attention. Too much time is spent on the track involving the flight simulator, although the very point it's meant to make - about following one's dream - is an important one. Similarly, there is the matter of the Russian invasion, which takes a while to fully understand. Even the Khodaji vs Pressvala conflict which is really intended as the heart of the film, because of what it stands for, is cinematically limp because Sohrab Ardeshir's Khodaji character is too much of a caricature to take seriously.

Of the cast, it's Boman Irani as the affable, tango-loving Pressvala who delivers the film's most credible performance. Also engaging are the little ones who turn in inspired, honest performances that are completely lacking in any pretence.

Little Zizou is not a bad film, but alas it does get boring. If there were points for intentions, this film would score big. But because in the end it's about the experience, I must admit it is at best an average film. So two out of five for Sooni Taraporevala's Little Zizou; it's a respectable first film, and one that captures the lazy charm of Mumbai's Parsi community. In terms of drama, however, it falls very short.

Rating: 2 / 5 (Average)

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