He, dressed ordinarily with hair carelessly falling over his face, is told by the girl he is rooting for, to come to the balcony. And there with radiant eyes, she mutters 'I like you'.
Both of them are covered with scores of color as it is Holi. The multiple hues denote the confused emotional rush. They are too young to have a peck, too shy to even embrace. They just stand across, starring and smiling, even as the guy attempts to touch her cheek.
It is an innocently sublime situation, one of the many that Bubblegum is comprised of.
The kid is Vedant -- a chap unable to maintain stability as he comes of age. The girl is Jenny -- the one he can't get his eyes off from on a normal day. There is also the scheming rival Ratan -- his strident acts so well planned, it is frustrating to see our hero in desperation, even as we secretly relish in Ratan's indulgence to create a rift.
That transitional phase from untroubled childhood to confusing adulthood has always remained a tricky one. The hormones tantalize as they just discover their existence, the discretion between the sexes suddenly takes a complex curve. Conversations are laced with nerve-wrecking consciousness, and proposing to that first crush becomes a life-altering challenge.
When Vedant's deaf brother Vidhur is back home from hostel for his vacation, life takes a dramatic turn for him. He (Vedant) is to 'be-there' for him all the time, or tag him along when he goes out to play. Clearly, he isn't prepared for a task and many moments arise when he openly refuses to take charge. The parents attempt to maintain peace between the two but arguments lead to dramatic fallouts as Vedant feels burdened.
The family is financially restrained, but their middle-class moralities is intact. The parents, played by Sachin Khedekar and Tanvi Azmi address their sons' troubles logically. Even if the Dad goes berserk, the mother who is more rational assures him that the kids will learn on their own.
The uniqueness of the film lies in the period it is set in. The time is 80's Jamshedpur; when having a landline phone was the ultimate luxury.
The atmosphere is grainy middle-class. And Sanjivan Lal's direction, although not supremely well-armed, captures the essence brilliantly. The credit also goes to Muneesh Sappal's believable
production designs which bear realism to the bygone era.
The characters fleshed out artfully maintain their continuity and evolve, even within the limited timeline they are set in. And moreover, they are an instantly likeable lot, bearing an uncanny familiarity.
Delzad Hiwale's Vedant -- the central protagonist mirrors teenage very aptly. He is a determined rebel, his angst evident from as tiny things as thumping the refrigerator or even by refusing to cut his hair. His prime focus is the girl he is fallen for and any wall in between is unacceptable. The actor -- Delzad Hiwale is a sparkler. He is restrained when necessary, explodes when out of control.
Suraj Singh's Ratan is viciously flamboyant, echoing that one mean guy who you always wanted to bash up. Raw, gutsy and seemingly Bihar-bred, he is extremely convincing. Sohail Lakhani plays the deaf brother Vidhur whose unerring expressions and plausible body language suffice for the lack of proper words.
Apoorva Arora's Jenny is cute and crush-worthy adding to the film's authentic charm.
The supporting cast, mostly mandatory fillers are recognizable characters, who we all encountered during 9th grade.
At many instances, the dialogue (with an elaborate voice-over), although dated, is genuinely funny.
The characters keep you curiously glued. Indulging in their ordinary lives, their little adventures, their scheming, their heartbreaks, their evolving psyche, and their frustrations, the film is nostalgically reminiscent of our own naivety.
It could have done with better editing as it appears longer, dimming our interest slightly.
In parts, the parents seem like professional counselors, having to say dialogues like "Indradhanush dekhna hai to tufaan ke rookne ka intezaar karna hi padega", and the mother is too idealistic to be true.
Yet, what makes Bubblegum an entertaining watch is the absolutely realistic & mature treatment to adolescent issues generally discarded as frivolous.
Also it doesn't become a victim of Bollywood's fast and fabricated version of teenage crisis.
But if you understand the film just as a story of blossoming romance, set within a teenage structure, you might only be partly right.
That's because the film is essentially a sweet tale of two loving yet bickering brothers -- the girl just being an inspiration of love -- and how eventually the physically inept one (Vidhur) influences the emotionally handicapped (Vedant) into overcoming his natural pettiness, evolving into a more mature and a sensitive being.