Woh Bhi Din The Movie Review: Sajid Ali’s ‘Woh Bhi Din The’, on ZEE5, is a sweet look at school days, filled with lovely, delicate moments

Sajid Ali
The film features Rohit Saraf, Adarsh Gourav, Sanjana Sanghi, Charu Bedi. There’s friendship, love, and everything else that makes up adolescence.
Woh Bhi Din The Movie Review

Woh Bhi Din The Movie Cast & Crew

Production : Rising Sun Films,Kino Works,JA Entertainment
Director : Sajid Ali
Music Director : Joi Barua

Sajid Ali has said that if streaming platforms hadn’t popped up, Woh Bhi Din The – which he directed before Laila Majnu – would have never seen the light of day. On the one hand, it’s a sad reminder of the reality of what works in theatres today – or at least, what the powers that be decide will work in theatres today. On the other hand, home-viewing is perfect for this sweet, slight, nostalgic coming-of-age story. Woh Bhi Din The does not feel like something you’d be watching with a crowd, munching expensive popcorn. It feels like sitting on a friend’s couch, going through their photo albums. There’s nothing new, exactly, in this film that opens with a thank-you card to Jamshedpur, where Sajid and his brother Imtiaz Ali grew up. But the problems faced by the characters – students in twelfth standard – are eternal, and a solid cast makes it a solid watch.

This sub-genre of film thrives on memories, and Woh Bhi Din The is no different. We see the potential of a crush being assessed through the FLAMES game. We see movie tickets being bought in a caged corridor, and we see the thrill of having obtained those tickets. (This thrill is something the online-booking generation will never know.) We get a porn-watching scene. We get a scene where a boy is peer-pressured into smoking, because “yehi hai tera mard banne ka chance!” We get locals who interact with the school kids and become a bad influence. And we see girls entering the school for the first time. An early scene has the protagonist pull off a daring and dangerous prank, climbing up to the school’s terrace. But the minute he faces a girl, he is dumbstruck.

Rohit Saraf plays our protagonist, named Rahul. He loves classic and progressive rock: The Beatles, Pink Floyd, etc. But at heart, he is very much a regressive (not intentionally, though) small-town Indian boy. His dilemma is kinda-sorta reminiscent of the one in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. On the one hand, there is the sweet, desi neighbour, Shalini (Charu Bedi). She wears salwar kameez-es and lives in the apartment complex opposite his, as opposed to Malaika aka Milky (a superb Sanjana Sanghi), who lives in a mansion and wears Western clothes. Shalini is shy, the foreign-returned Milky is uninhibited. Looking at Milky, at first, Rahul mentally slut-shames her - but when he gets to know her, his world opens. He realises she is a “nice girl”, after all. Is Rahul a two-timer? No. He is just confused. One part of him craves the familiarity that Shalini represents, while another part wants to explore the different world that Milky lives in.

This love triangle is written with lovely, delicate moments. Take the scene where Rahul’s adolescent angst has alienated him from everyone in class, and Shalini hands him a cassette to listen to. “Thank you, yaar,” Rahul says. You really feel his gratitude that someone seems to be on his side, when nothing seems to be going right. Or take Rahul’s best friend Joy Ganguly (Adarsh Gourav, acing the role of the perennial sidekick). Rahul doesn’t have the guts to speak to Milky, so he makes Joy hang out with her “as a friend”. Later, when Rahul tells Joy that he likes Milky, the expression on Joy’s face is complicated. Has he fallen for Milky? Is that part of the many things that make him blow up at Rahul in a later scene?

For all her sophistication, Milky, too, is confused. At one point, she lashes out at Rahul that he cannot dictate what she can and cannot do because he is not her husband. And yet, she wants to do things to make him like her, things that she would not have done otherwise. Had Rahul not been in the room with other guys, and had she not seen the sour look on his face, maybe she would have had the beer that was offered to her! The fact that adolescence is complicated is the generic narrative of the film, but these characters and their very unique complications makes it all very specific. Rohit Saraf has a clean, almost transparent face that looks like it is still being formed, and his whole persona is a shivering mess of awkwardness. He carries the film beautifully.

I could have lived without the awkward and clichéd framing device of a famous alum (played by a famous star) who visits the school and narrates these events to a bunch of boys who are being punished for things very similar to the ones he did while in school. He is, of course, the grown-up Rahul. He now says things like “Time ka value uske beetne ke baad hi pata chalta hai”.  He adds that these are the best years of life. I don’t know. I like to wallow occasionally in nostalgia, but I like to think the best is still to come. If you think that “the best years” are behind you – how will you motivate yourself to get out of bed? But such is this sub-genre, and Woh Bhi Din The is a good example of it. It’s simple, it’s sweet, it makes you smile, it makes you sad, it makes you recall a part of yourself even if you’ve never been to Jamshedpur.

Rate Woh Bhi Din The Movie - ( 0 )
Public/Audience Rating
Baradwaj Rangan

National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan, former deputy editor of The Hindu and senior editor of Film Companion, has carved a niche for himself over the years as a powerful voice in cinema, especially the Tamil film industry, with his reviews of films. While he was pursuing his chemical engineering degree, he was fascinated with the writing and analysis of world cinema by American critics. Baradwaj completed his Master’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations through scholarship. His first review was for the Hindi film Dum, published on January 30, 2003, in the Madras Plus supplement of The Economic Times. He then started critiquing Tamil films in 2014 and did a review on the film Subramaniapuram, while also debuting as a writer in the unreleased rom-com Kadhal 2 Kalyanam. Furthermore, Baradwaj has authored two books - Conversations with Mani Ratnam, 2012, and A Journey Through Indian Cinema, 2014. In 2017, he joined Film Companion South and continued to show his prowess in critiquing for the next five years garnering a wide viewership and a fan following of his own before announcing to be a part of Galatta Media in March 2022.