Raju Tawde (Moin Khan) jauntily walks into his college, all but expecting to have cracked his latest attempt at earning an engineering degree. No such luck. He calls up a friend who says, chill bro! Raju takes off to watch a movie, but reality catches up with the slack-jacked young man when he learns that his father Krishna has had a heart attack.

Krishna (Saagar Kale) is a lift operator at a housing society in Mumbai, and his illness forces his son to stand in until he recovers. Raju initially hates the job, but soon becomes friends with an aspiring actress fatuously called Princess (Aneesha Shah) by her pushy mother and Maureen, the silver-haired owner of the building. Maureen (Nyla Masood) is a painter working on what she hopes is her masterpiece. In this saga of achievement, hope and redemption, it soon becomes clear that Raju will be Maureen’s finest creation.

Jonathan Augustin’s debut feature isn’t without its charms, which include sincere performances by the actors, conversational dialogue that tackles weighty issues, and an unusual friendship across generations. The movie works only if its romanticism and simplistic approach are allowed to eclipse its inability to hold a mirror to urban poverty and the lack of access to education and jobs. Among the hurdles are the lack of English-speaking skills and an exposure to the cultural experiences that are a preserve of the elite.

But these aren’t Raju’s problems. He is a reluctant engineering student who would rather be a writer, speaks English in the same accent as the building residents, and reads The Great Gatsby on shift. Raju’s linguistic skills and obvious polish erase the class and caste differences that exists between lift operators and flat owners in the real world, and make his upward climb that much more unconvincing.

The characterisation of Maureen as an angel in human form and the film’s insistent aspirational quality and faith in solutions not available to the average working-class person firmly set the movie in fairy tale territory. Bring out the rose-tinted glasses and the blinkers and Raju’s journey becomes meaningful – but only barely.

The Lift Boy (2019).