Sharat Katariya’s Sui Dhaga starring Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma comes across as a very laboured attempt at portraying the lives and struggles of marginalized people. The film makes a conscious attempt to stay away from portraying the glamorous lives of the rich which have dominated bollywood films.
Mauji (Varun Dhawan) works at a shop selling sewing machines in a city where his work often goes beyond that of a salesperson. He takes a crowded train every morning to get to work and spends a fair share of the workday running personal errands for his employer, a reality for many workers in our country who are employed in shops with no defined work roles or shifts. Just like Mauji, such workers often face humiliation from not just their employers but also from members of their employer’s families. It is this humiliation of her husband at the wedding of the employer’s son that compels Mamta (Anushka Sharma) to convince Mauji to quit his job and start his own business.
From this point on the film falls into the trap of typical bollywood-style rags to riches story and under the guise of Mauji and Mamta’s blooming romance, veils the self-exploitation that is core to self-employment. That said, realities of self-employment do makes an appearance every now and then especially in conversations between Mauji’s father (Raghubir Yadav), who retires from a government job with a pension, and Mauji. These are about the sense of stability that a secure government job provides to people living at the margins: fixed monthly income and social security. This is once again reinforced when Mauji and Mamta have to make a choice between the offer to take a job at a factory and continue the struggle to stitch their future as a street side tailor.
Life at a factory in the film is a far cry from the reality of garment manufacturing industry in India. The cleanliness, wide space between sewing lines and bright lighting portrays an unreal manufacturing facility that exists mostly in government show reels and corporate brochures. But even at this ‘model’ factory, the cordial relationship between workers and management comes crashing down when Mauji raises his voice against exploitation. He is brusquely reminded by his supervisor that his hours at work is not his but governed by the productivity targets that have been set for the day. Mauji is jostled around by the security guards and his supervisor and thrown out of the factory for demanding his right.
The film conveniently ignores all questions of access while narrating the miraculous success of Mauji’s team in the corporate talent hunt. The entire narrative is woven around the possibility of success of a ‘hardworking’ individual which is an oft repeated Bollywood prescription for success. The underlying assumption being that equal access equal opportunity exists In doing so the film crudely advertises ‘Make in India’ and subtly legitimizes the appropriation of community products by large corporations doling out vast sums of money in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility and talent hunts.