There is never any doubt that Super Nani is based on a play, the Gujarati Baa Aae Mari Boundary. Following the worst theatrical traditions, the actors screech their dialogue at a volume high enough to shatter the slumber of the viewer napping at the back. (Ear plugs, and a hip flask, are advised for the valourous viewers who will venture out for this one).
The only calming tones in Indra Kumar’s regressive eighties-style morality lesson emanate from the glam gran of the title. Rekha has the kind of smoky voice that belongs in a bar, not in the prayer room where we first see her, modelling the first of an entire shop’s worth of saris and bringing together her talons before a Krishna idol to complete the picture of a domestic goddess.
But not for long. Rekha’s Bharti is a doormat, content to be trodden upon by her obnoxious husband (Randhir Kapoor) and the members of her family. That is, until Bharti’s non-resident Indian grandson Mann (Sharman Joshi), who has forgotten his Hindi but not his Hindu values, returns to rescue her. Egged on by Mann, Bharti embarks on a career in modelling that puts every clotheshorse her granddaughter’s age out of business.
The incredulous plot contrivance is nothing more than an excuse for Rekha to slip into the sultry image for which is so famous. The sudden image change from glam gran to ultra-glam pin-up also allows the actor to imitate, for reasons known only to the filmmakers, famous actors from the past, including herself. It’s too meta for Kumar and writer Vipul Mehta, who are more comfortable peddling vegetarian values (respect your parents, don’t enter into live-in relationships, cook for your family members, remember to burp the baby, acknowledge your wife in public, put home above the world).
It’s tacky, loud, broad as a tank, insufferable at 113 minutes, terribly performed, and shot like a low-budget television episode, but Super Nani is certainly of the moral majority moment. The movie’s false piety and ultra-conservatism will endear it to viewers anxious about love jihad and kiss-ins, while Rekha fans will have to wait for a better opportunity to watch the last of the great enigmatic movie stars prove her worth.