Waiting is a 2015 Indian drama film directed by Anu Menon. Produced by Priti Gupta and Manish Mundra under the banner of Ishka Films and Drishyam Films respectively, the film was co-written by Menon and James Ruzicka, and stars Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin in lead roles. Waiting focuses on the relationship between two people from different walks of life who befriend each other in a hospital, while nursing their respective comatose spouses. Rajat Kapoor, Suhasini Maniratnam, Arjun Mathur, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee and Rajeev Ravindranathan play supporting roles in the film.
The development of the film began in June 2014, when Menon signed Koechlin and Shah for an untitled project. Principal photography started in November 2014 in the South Indian coastal city of Kochi; Neha Parti served as the cinematographer for the film. New Zealand-based singer-songwriter Mikey McCleary composed the film’s score. Nitin Baid and Apurva Asrani edited the film, and Atika Chohan wrote the dialogue. Waiting also marked the Hindi film debut of the prominent South Indian actress-director Suhasini Maniratnam. Koechlin also made her debut as a lyricist with the film’s soundtrack, writing the song “Waiting for You”.
Waiting had its world premiere at the Dubai International Film Festival on 11 December 2015 to positive reviews from critics. It was also screened at the closing gala of the London Asian Film Festival, where Menon won the Best Director Award. The film was released theatrically in India on 27 May 2016. Upon release in India, Waiting was well received by critics, with particular praise for the performances of Koechlin and Shah, and Menon’s direction. The film had a below average run at the box office, collecting a total of ₹35 million (US$490,000) during its theatrical run.
Shiv Natraj (Naseeruddin Shah), an elderly psychology professor, arrives at a hospital in Kochi to visit his comatose wife Pankaja (Suhasini Maniratnam). Tara Kapoor Desphande (Kalki Koechlin), a young advertising agent, also arrives at the hospital during the night after being delivered news of a car accident involving her husband, Rajat Deshpande (Arjun Mathur). She is consoled by Rajat’s eccentric co-worker Girish (Rajeev Ravindranathan), but dismisses him abruptly. Tara is deeply disturbed to see Rajat breathing on a ventilator, and leaves immediately.
In the waiting lounge, Tara approaches Shiv, believing him to be a doctor, and asks for his advice. He reveals that his wife had a stroke eight months ago while he was out watching a cricket match, and has been in a coma ever since. The two bond over their similar situations. Later, Girish drops Tara off at a hotel and gives her Rajat’s bag. Tara finds his watch in it and puts it on. The next day she is angered after reading an intimate message on Rajat’s phone from a colleague Sheetal, who is later revealed to be a man. Shiv witnesses the whole misunderstanding, and the two share a light moment. He later visits her at the hotel, and she shares her disappointment with her friends and followers on social media for having abandoned her. She commends Shiv for his composure, as he explains the five stages of grief to her.
Tara finds her strength in Shiv, a wiser and more experienced counterpart. The two start spending most of their spare time together coping with their grief, despite being completely opposite in nature. Shiv takes Tara to the temple, and she takes him shopping. Rajat’s doctor, Nirupam Malhotra (Rajat Kapoor), tells Tara that Rajat has a hematoma in his brain and an operation might help him recover, but it carries the risk of partial paralysis. Tara is torn, as she believes Rajat would not want to take the risk, and seeks advice from Shiv. He is already at loggerheads with Dr. Malhotra, dismissing him as a pawn of the hospital board and the insurance companies who only care about making money and not the patients. Tara and Shiv get into a heated argument. Shiv lashes out angrily at Tara for not giving Rajat a chance at life. Tara retorts that she is a realist, and dismisses Shiv for being selfish and making his wife go through pain for his own sake.
Tara’s best friend Ishita (Ratnabali Bhattacharjee) arrives at Kochi and advises her to start chanting prayers and to inform Rajat’s estranged parents of his situation. Despite being an atheist, Tara chants Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō when she is alone with Rajat. Shiv desperately attempts to convince Malhotra to perform a spinal decompression on his wife, but he disregards Shiv’s research and refuses to proceed with surgery. Tara discusses Rajat’s surgery with Ishita and decides not to go ahead with it, which further angers Malhotra. Ishita leaves to aid her ailing son. Tara realises that she is no longer Ishita’s top priority, now that Ishita is married. Shiv and Tara make up and later that night dance together at Shiv’s house, much to the amusement of his neighbours. They get upset thinking about their spouses and discuss what they meant to them, before falling asleep in the living room.
The next morning, Tara leaves early and decides to inform Rajat’s mother. After Girish brings Tara the required insurance papers, she thanks him for always being there for her and apologises for being rude. She decides to go ahead with the surgery after all. Rajat is taken to surgery, and she holds his hand until they arrive at the operating room. Shiv, on the other hand, decides to take Pankaja off the ventilator and let his wife herself make the final call. Pankaja tries to breathe on her own as the viewers are treated with flashbacks of the heyday of both couples. Tara takes a seat in the waiting lounge, and is joined by Shiv as the camera pans out.
Naseeruddin Shah as Shiv Kumar Natraj
Kalki Koechlin as Tara Deshpande
Arjun Mathur as Rajat Deshpande
Rajat Kapoor as Dr. Nirupam Malhotra
Suhasini Maniratnam as Pankaja, the coma-ridden wife of Prof Shiv Kumar Natraj
Nandini Sree as Nurse Ann
Rajeev Ravindranathan as Girish
Ratnabali Bhattacharjee as Ishita
Marin Babu as Nurse Prema
Krishna Shankar as Ravi