LIFF 2019 Movie Review: ‘The Lift Boy’

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Now in its 10th year, the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival has pulled out all the stops. With a wide variety of films, talks and events across the country, audiences are in for a treat this year as the festival celebrates all the very best of South Asian film making. As a part of this year’s programme, debut writer, director and producer Jonathan Augustin has been given the opportunity to showcase his first filmmaking project, titled ‘The Lift Boy’. Only having acted in a short story back in 2015, it seems, Augustin has been given the perfect platform to get his work out there.

The story of ‘The Lift Boy’ is centred on Raju (Moin Khan) who is a happy-go-lucky boy, who doesn’t take life all that seriously, despite his father Krishna (Saagar Kale) being a lift man and his mother Lakshmi (Neha Bam) washing other people dishes for a living. After failing his engineering exam, he decides to go to the cinema on his friend’s advice, and not worrying about the fact that it’s his fourth time failing. However, when his father has a heart attack and is told to bed rest for three weeks, Raju’s life changes, as he has no choice but to take his father’s place and become the lift boy for a building of flats, owned by an interesting widow named Ms D’Souza (Nyla Masood). However, little does Raju know that his life is about to change, and Ms D’Souza is more than just the owner of the building.

With a couple of acting roles under his belt, it’s easy to see Khan is mastering how to make the most out of his on-screen presence. Playing a 24-year old low-life-turned-good, comes easy for him where he effortlessly becomes a likable character. Though there are many complexities to the character of Raju, what makes this an applauseworthy performance is Khan’s ability to play this role in a simple way, instead of over-acting. Through this, he makes his character believable and he gives himself the space to build up his character personality, changing the viewer’s perception of him. Masood as D’Souza is instantly likable too, giving a natural and uncomplicated performance. Yet, being a slight mystery in the story, where the audience question her intentions as the film goes on, Masood is brilliant so as to ensure she gives nothing away, which makes her act all the more joyful to watch. Playing the typical stern father, who pushes his son to study what he thinks would be a good job, is Kale. No stranger to the camera, Kale as Krishna is the father everyone fears. Yet another effortless performance, which everyone can relate to in some way, with either knowing a father like him, or even being the father like him, Kale knows exactly what he’s doing with this character.

This is a great attempt at a first movie as a writer, director and a producer for Augustin. Telling a simple story, with simple characters, he has played to all his and his actors’ strengths. It’s easy to see from each performance, that the filmmaker has given each actor the space to make their characters their own. There are times, however, the film slows down where there isn’t a lot for the viewer to engage with, and the ending seems a bit rushed with no explanation as to why the characters ended up there and how. By using a transition like this, Augustin falls short in the story making a lasting impression.  

This is an easy an enjoyable watch. The performances are perfect and each character is relatable in some way. Cleverly, Augustin has made this film mostly in English, which makes it a more accessible watch for an international audience. Despite there being room for a little more creativeness, Augustin has done an admirable job in the whole.

 

***The Bagri Foundation London Film Festival celebrates a decade in bringing the best new South Asian films to the UK, with 5 cities, 25 venues and 25 specially curated films. It starts on 20th June 2019 in London continues until 8th July 2019, at cinemas across the UK. For more on the festival, please visit: http://londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/***

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