A promising drama strays into soapy scenarios

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Opens Friday 19

Rainbow Cinemas

India’s deep sociocultural divisions have inspired its filmmakers since Satyajit Ray made the seminal Apu trilogy. Decades of films later, it can’t be easy to find new angles on the topic — even given its breadth and complexity.

For a brief moment, it seems Sir may break through and find a new take on how two characters in separate journeys could support each other as they transition to a different stage. Then the film falls into well-worn grooves and soap opera-level drama, wasting some solid character work and an exploration into the nuances of class struggle in modern India.

Oh well.

Ratna (Tillotama Shome, Monsoon Wedding) has made the most of the terrible hand she was dealt: widowed in her twenties, Ratna found work as a maid in Mumbai, a job that lets her pay for her sister’s studies to become a couturier. Never mind her efforts to break poverty’s cycle — she’s consistently treated as a second-class citizen.

Her boss, Ashwin (Vivek Gomber) is going through his own ordeals. Fresh from fleeing his wedding, the “Sir” of the title feels unmoored, particularly after trading New York for Mumbai. The reason behind his cancelled engagement is unknown, but the truth is less interesting than letting your imagination fly.

The top half, featuring Ratna and Ashwin individually testing how far can they veer from tradition without crashing, is the best. Their relationship is tentative — not without ripples, but sweet. From separate social standings, they prove that a bit of kindness can get them through the day.

Then, two thirds in, it all goes to Hades. The relationship changes and not for the better. I’ll stay away from spoiler territory, but you’ve seen this in Bollywood films (and Hallmark TV movies) time and time again.

Toward the end, Sir tries to correct the wrong turn, but it’s too late.

Okay, yes, Sir is a crowd-pleaser. The leads are likeable and it’s a breezy 99 minutes.

But it should have aimed higher.