Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Entertainment Review: Rabia And Olivia

Rabia And Olivia

Directed by Shadab Khan

Cast:  Nayab Khan, Helena Prinzen Klages, Sheeba Chadha and others

This film, written and directed by Shadab Khan, has the germ of an emotional cross-cultural family drama; it is sincere but also mostly marred by amateurish execution.

Rabia Syed (Nayab Khan) has migrated to Canada applying for refugee status—it doesn’t say for what reason. She has an enviable wardrobe of trendy outfits and has left behind her mother (Sheeba Chadha) and younger brother living in a palatial mansion in India.

In Canada, she struggles to find a job, till Nasir (Afroz Khan) , a friend of the family, gets her work as a nanny for a mentally disturbed nine-year-old Olivia (Helena Prinzen Klages). The child suffers from night terrors after the death of her mother, and her harried father, Mark (Nathan Bragg) is at his wit’s end, because Olivia’s tantrums have driven away several nannies. The medicines prescribed to her, leave Olivia in even worse condition, so she has had to drop out of school

Strangely then, Mark leaves to go off on a trip, leaving the child with an illegal immigrant who is almost a stranger; all he insists on is that Olivia be given her medication. In a phone chat with her mother, Rabia is told that she suffered from the same condition after the death of her father, and all she needed was someone to care for her, not high-potency pills.

Rabia gives Olivia the love and care she needed, and on her own, decides to stop the medication. Olivia shows a marked improvement and is even able to resume school. The friendship between Rabia and Olivia is the sweetest, most heart-warming section of the film. Rabia shows her Bollywood films, takes her to colourful Indian functions, which she enjoys.

Then the father returns and is appalled to find that Rabia had stopped Olivia’s meds; he is daft enough not to notice the child’s better health, and at least seek a second opinion or therapy. The racist doctor gets Rabia arrested on charges of “child negligence” and Olivia collapses. 

Even though the film is written and directed without much attention to detail, it does underline the cultural differences between India and Canada. While Rabia’s Indian friends, Nasir and his employees Imran (Shadab Khan), and Daljeet (Shehriyar Khan) rally around her in time of need, Mark and Olivia seen to live in a vacuum, without any kind of social circle of friends of relatives to turn to.

The one who really stands out in the cast of newbies and unknowns is Helena Prinzen Klages, who is excellent as Olivia, acting with complete confidence. The film may not have the power to attract audiences to the cinema, but in a week with few new OTT shows, this one, with its short runtime, may just find willing viewers. The same subject, with better writing and acting, could actually make for a more engaging film.

Deepa Gahlot
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best-known entertainment journalists. A National Award-winning fim critic and author of several books on film and theatre. She tweets at @deepagahlot

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