Monday, July 27, 2015

Review of Masaan

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Cast: Sanjay Mishra (Vidyadhar Pathak), Richa Chadha (Devi Pathak), Vicky Kaushal (Deepak Chaudhary), Shweta Tripathi (Shaalu Gupta), Pankaj Tripathi (Sadhya Ji), Nikhil Sahni (Jhonta), Satya Kam Anand (Vikram Mallah), Bhagwan Tiwari (Inspector Mishra), Vineet Kumar (Doctor Chaudhary), Bhupesh Singh (Sikandar Chaudhary)
Direction: Neeraj Ghaywan
Producers: Manish Mundra, Vikas Bahl, Melita Toscon du Plantier, Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga, Vikramadita Motwane, Marie Jeane Pascal, Shaan Vyuas
Production Company: Drishyam Films, Phantom Films, Macassar Films, Shikya Entertainment  
Written by: Neeraj Ghaywan, Varun Grover
Music: Indian Ocean Band
Cinematography: Avinash Arun Dhaware
Edited by: Nitin Baid
Release Date: 24th July, 2015 (19th May, 2015 at Cannes)
Duration: 1 hour 49 minutes
Language: Hindi

Masaan, a film by debutant director Neeraj Ghaywan, is a very different film which Indian Cinema has not seen in the recent past. Masaan is going to touch your hearts. It has already won two awards at 68th Cannes International Film Festival this year: International Federation of Film Critics award (FIPRESCI) and Prix de I’Avenir ‘Most Promising Newcomer’ award for Neeraj in the Un Certain Regard section. Masaan’s screening at Cannes fetched the whole team 5 minute long standing ovation. Neeraj has assisted Anurag Kashyap for Gangs of Wasseypur. When Varun Grover joined hands with Neeraj to write this film, the result which has come out as Masaan is a must watch. Indian Ocean Band’s music is a delight to ears. Masaan was also showcased as the opening movie in Jagran Film Festival (1-5th July, 2015) at Delhi. I was one of the lucky one to catch this show, and I was touched, moved with the movie. Jam packed audience at Jagran Film Festival also gave the Masaan Team standing ovation.

Masaan has got raving reviews from all across the corner after its release. I feel very incompetent to review this movie, since many details are to be seen and felt, very difficult to express through writing.

Masaan is a story of life, death, innocent love, natural progression to explore love as adults, the need to be part of a family, conservative yet adopting a modern outlook towards life, complex mix of modernity with tradition, rebelling against the moral constructs of the society, corruption by a police officer etc.  Masaan is definitely going to have a lingering impact on you, make you accept death as an inevitable part of life, value life more, handle the loss of life, grow beyond grief, face the turbulence of life and the necessity to move on in life irrespective of situations. Oh yes, there are moments of innocent love which is going to bring lot of smile on your face. The film does not try to convey what is right and what is wrong, it does not take any stand as such. It just projects certain realities of life. Certain scenes are so intricately handled, minute details are covered, and these generate so many emotions within us.

The word Masaan means cremation grounds (Ghat), where dead bodies are cremated. The movie is set up in the backdrop of Banaras Ghat. Different stories are conveyed, intertwined with one another. Initial credits in the screen are followed by a message which meant that life is an arrangement of five elements whereas death is actually disarray of the very same five elements. It sets out the tone of the whole movie.

The film begins with Devi Pathak (Richa Chadha) watching a porn film and later going to meet her boyfriend Piyush Agarwal who used to come to her coaching institute where she was working as a receptionist. Both of them are caught red-handed by police officials in a hotel during their first sexual encounter. Inspector Mishra (Bhagwan Tiwari) does not waste a minute in shooting Devi’s video. Meanwhile, Piyush attempts to commit suicide in the restroom. Life takes a humiliating turn for Devi.

Vidyadhar Pathak (Sanjay Mishra, Devi’s father), once a professor, now sits in one of the ghat as a Pandit to conduct rituals and sell Puja materials, and also translates some work to earn a living. He reaches police station to bail Devi out. Oh, it is such a strong emotional moment, when Devi and Vidyadhar are sitting in two chairs adjacent to each other in front of Inspector Mishra. One can relate with both the characters. Vidyadhar is a person, for whom, respect in the society matters a lot. Vidyadhar and Devi’s humiliation reflect so much through their body language. Even after their coming back home, without uttering a word, Vidyadhar expresses to Devi his grief, pain, disbelief, humiliation. Inspector Mishra later emotionally blackmails Vidyadhar when Piyush dies and demands money from him.

And then there is story of Deepak Chaudhary (debutant Vicky Kaushal), who is from Dom community, lives in Harishchandra Ghat along with his parents, brother and sister-in-law. He is also pursuing his final year engineering from a polytechnic college. Masaan shows the lives of people of his community dealing with deaths every moment and earning their livelihood out of deaths. There is a dialogue in the movie which says: There are only two kings in Banaras – one is Kashi King and another one is Dom king; and how true this is.  The dom community is in ghat with the funeral pyre most of the time. They even use this holy pyre to light their stove at home to cook food.

Deepak falls in love with Shaalu Gupta (debutant Shweta Tripathi), an upper caste girl, who is so much a lover of poetry and well-versed with the works of Mirza Ghalib, Bashir Badr, Nida Fazli, Akbar Allahabadi etc. The way love blossoms between Deepak and Shaalu does bring lot of smile. It is interesting to see, how Deepak chooses facebook to connect with Shaalu. Music by Indian Ocean band, and lyrics by Varun Grover (inspired from the poet Dushyant Kumar’s ghazal) : “Tu kisi rail si guzarti hai, main kisi pull sa thartharata hum…” add so much meaning to Deepak and Shaalu’s love.

A strong bond is shown between Vidyadhar Pathak and adorable orphan kid Jhonta (Nikhil Sahni), who assists him in his shop at ghat. Jhonta loves to dive deep into Ganga but does not get permission from Vidyadhar.

Another character Sadhya ji (Pankaj Tripathi), is a clerk in the railway reservation center. How his character is introduced and his role adds to the film’s plot, watch the film to know.

How does the story of Masaan move further? Does Devi’s character succumb to guilt and humiliation? How does she address her own guilt? Does she outgrow it to take charge of her life? How the relationship between Devi and her father Vidyadhar shape up after the unfortunate incident? How do they arrange money for Inspector Mishra? What happens to Deepak and Shaalu’s love story? What actually happens when one person who sees deaths every moment but has to face the death of his most beloved one? How to overcome the grief and feeling of loss?  Does the holy river Ganges able to fill the gap between caste, genders created by human beings in the society? Although, the climax, rather the whole plot, might raise certain questions in your heart i.e. what if the things which happened never happened at all or had taken a different turn?

Certain moments which are definitely going to give you goosebumps: Understated emotions between Devi and Vidyadhar; Deepak trying to cry his heart out and say: ye dukh sala khatam hi nahi hota; Vidyadhar’s realization of how he became a self-centered person to fulfill his own motives, Jhonta’s love towards Vidyadhar and determination to help him; Skullcrushing scenes in the ghat; Deepak’s father wanting Deepak to move out of house / ghat life by fetching a job; Vidyadhar packing food for Devi etc.  

What a fabulous acting by Sanjay Mishra as Vidyadhar Pathak. He brings so much life to all those understated or unstated emotions. Richa Chadha has again proved herself, such a restrained performance. She brings out Devi’s guilt, rebelliousness, and desire to grow in life so well through her performance. The little kid Nikhil Sahni is simply adorable. Pankaj Tripathi is also very good. A special mention for debutants Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi, how innocently, naturally and beautifully they have loved each other in the film. Vicky and Shweta would make us want to fall in love again. Vicky has played his role & delivered the dialogue so convincingly. He expresses happiness as well as grief of Deepak so well. Shweta with her beautiful smile and poetry sprouting role as Shaalu has added lot of freshness to the film. Both Vicky and Shweta are awesome. Rest of the actors have also done justice to their characters.

Indian Ocean’s music, Varun’s lyrics and Avinash Arun’s cinematography adds lots of magic to the film.

Masaan, a must-watch film, showcases the journey of transformation, journey from the Ganges to Sangam; talks about the very essence of life.

Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)