Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) The caste system that still thrives in Indian society and influences all relations is the focus of Pankaj Parashar's forthcoming film "Banaras", scheduled for release this month.
The film explores the complex relationship of humans with god while using Banaras - or Varanasi as the temple city in Uttar Pradesh is now called - and its spiritual wisdom as the backdrop.
Urmila Matondkar, who has been hibernating for a while, plays the central character in the film full of communal and spiritual twists and turns.
Shwetambari (Urmila), the bright young daughter of rich Brahmin parents (Dimple Kapadia and Raj Babbar), studies science at the Banaras university.
Soham (Ashmit Patel), a low caste mystic and a protégé of Babaji (Naseeruddin Shah), teaches music at the same university. When the two meet and fall in love, hell breaks loose in Banaras.
Orthodox and conservatives beliefs surface to the fore, threatening to take away everything from the young lovers.
When Shwetambari's powerful parents try to ignore the social strictures for the happiness of their daughter, dark forces and destiny take complete control over the situation.
A shattered and helpless Shwetambari decides to abandon the city she loves and to turn inwards for answers.
Seventeen years later, Shwetambari, who now teaches philosophy and religion, is confronted with a final choice - whether to return to Banaras to meet her dying father or to continue to deny all attachments with her hometown.
Will she decide to go back to Banaras? And if she does, will the sleeping demons and dark secrets lying underneath like a dormant volcano erupt again and destroy her peace of mind forever?
Versatile Naseeruddin Shah, who tickled the funny bones in the role of a ghost in "Chamatkar", plays a mystical character who apparently has answers to all the problems.
Parashar's creativity takes a new turn with "Banaras" - he ventures into a completely new zone with the mystical drama. So far, he had only churned out typical Bollywood potboilers but in this film he dabbles with some serious social issues affecting society.
His earlier releases were "Chaalbaaz", "Himalayaputra" and "Tumko Na Bhool Payenge".
Critics feel after "Pinjar", "Ek Haseena Thi" and "Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin", this film could be another feather in Urmila's cap as she has made a conscious decision of moving on to meaningful cinema after playing the glamour girl for more than a decade in mainstream films.