Deepti Naval has been a very sensitive, subtle performer on screen in her long tenure as an actress. Her directorial debut with Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aana Ki Baarish has an intriguing title that explains itself as the film moves on. The story is simple but the characters and their relationships are quite complex. Naval uses a straightforward narrative to unfold, layer by slow layer, the finer nuances of a relationship that evolves between and among three characters that could be termed “social outcasts.”

Juhi (Monisha Koirala), is an ageing sex worker whose business is down because she is no longer young enough for her clients. She lives in a two-room-plus-kitchenette with her physically challenged son Kaku (Sanaj) who cannot speak and moves about on a wheel-chair. The third character is a stranger called Debu (Rajit Kapoor) who is a lyricist for Bollywood films but is a failure because he cannot write sleazy lyrics. The relationship between Juhi and Kaku is not good at all because Juhi is worried about the decline in her clientele while Kaku wants her company, living alone as he does, the entire day. The mother-son duo have invented an unique way to communicate – Juhi has learnt to read what Kaku wants from the number of times he bangs his empty mug on the arm of his wheelchair and Debu slowly learns this while he also tries to teach Kaku to strum the guitar.

She brushes against Debu (Rajit Kapoor) one day, who is without home or job and he tries to persuade Juhi to offer him the job of taking care of 12-year-old Babu. Juhi agrees reluctantly but is pleasantly surprised to discover that the two bond very well and Kaku’s expression changes and he begins to behave like a normal child. Debu, Juhi slowly learns, is a closeted gay and the film essays how these three jell and create their own “mainstream family” of three social outcasts. The backdrop is the city of Mumbai and Juhi lives somewhere near the sea where Debu repairs to, often with Kaku on his back, both enjoying the breeze and the open air, a dramatic change in Kaku’s life whose sole experience with the world beyond his home is the window through which Debu allows him to smuggle a kitten he gets to love very much.

The warm and entirely selfless bonding between Juhi and Debu comes through an unusual common cause – their love for and memory of lovely Hindi film songs, covering a time span wide enough to make place for Howrah Bridge on the one end, or may be earlier, and Bunty Aur Babli at the other. Both of them can rattle off the songs, the lyrics, the names of the lyricists and the music directors fluently from memory. Seen from this perspective, the film can also be read as a tribute to Hindi film music where the names of Kaifi Azmi, Shailendra, Shakeel Badayuni, Shankar Jaikishen, Gulzar and many others are bandied about freely with lines from their more popular songs belted out by Juhi and Debu. This is a unique touch where two marginal people, pushed to the sidelines by virtue of their profession or the lack of it, find common bonding through their favourite songs.

Kiran Deohans’ cinematography pays a tribute to the Mumbai seascape, the interiors of a seedy bar where young sex workers threaten Juhi’s sole source of income back to Juhi’s home which was like a large waste-bin when Debu found it and then turned it into a proper home. The colours are kept within a bluish tint which suits the lowly ambience the setting belongs to. A sad contrast in red comes off each time Juhi’s bright red lipstick is highlighted in the story. There is a sweet touch when Debu tries to raise her “standards” by putting low-key make-up on her to be able to fit into a more respectable and classy society. But the experiment is a failure because very soon, Juhi goes back to her old style of ‘catching’ clients!

The alternating between the claustrophobic flat and the open sea where Debu runs through the waters carrying a laughing Kaku on his shoulders sets the right contrast between the rains and the sunshine. The rains are used when the characters are sad and moody and depressed. Backshots of the two adult characters caught in part silhouette are a touching tribute to loneliness and togetherness, both.

He repairs the television and it begins functioning again which annoys Juhi because it is pushing up the electricity bills. These are small touches that flesh out the outline of the film.At a given point, Juhi feels uncomfortable when she sees that Kaku is closer to Debu than he is with his own mother. But she accepts it when she says, “While trying to be a father all these years, I forgot that I am a mother,” and the discomfort fades away naturally.

The music by Sandesh Shandilya and the lyrics by Gulzar offer just the right prop for the story running in front. The editing is okay. But the cream and the cake go to the three actors beginning with Rajit Kapoor in an incredible performance as Debu. This role is not like any he has ever done before. He plays a closeted gay betrayed by his three-year-living-together lover, frustrated with his inability to sell his lyrics and yet, taking great care and putting in a lot of love in looking after Juhi’s home and hearth which he does not belong to. He sings, dances, prances about, gets very close to Kaku who places both love and faith in him. Debu also persuades Juhi to change her life and give up prostitution which is difficult for her. But one day, he disappears from their lives leaving them alone again.

Sanjan as the physically challenged Kaku puts in a memorably natural performance, difficult for a debutant and more difficult to put conviction in the performance of a challenged child. Monisha Koirala, reportedly making her first screen appearance after her journey through cancer has also tried her best to add flesh and blood to a very difficult role. The title explains itself as how never mind how much the rains flood one’s life with sadness, loneliness, sorrow, it needs just a two-bit slice of sunshine to fill it with hope and happiness and togetherness.

Good work Deepti but this is too niche a film to appeal to a mass audience. No wonder it had to be acquired by NETFLIX for a September 2019 release though it was screened in Cannes several years ago in the market section.