Cast: Rahul Aggarwal, Narayani Shastri, Om Puri
Direction: Rahul Aggarwal
Congress’s ‘aam aadmi’ (note: it’s never the ‘aam aurat’) tries as hard to enter the nation’s economic agenda as he does to slip in to our popular films.
This movie, that way, is a notable exception. A gentleman, with a feminine Devaki for a first name, introduces to the camera his village. The film starts off thus as a mockumentary. The protagonist talks to viewers directly. And then the film meanders into a regular narrative. It’s an irritatingly confused devise — you may check out the beginning of Manish Acharya’s hilarious Loins Of Punjab Presents, for reference.
The place here is called Palanhar, and for purposes of postal codes, even the hero isn’t sure if his home falls in Bihar, or Uttar Pradesh. The dialect, though inconsistent, could pass off for UP’s.
The meek gent of this hamlet shows his urban audiences a nether world that rural India is: “Ek gaon jo gaon rehne ke liye majboor hai: A village that is compelled to remain a village forever.” The essential flavour isn’t widely off the mark — mooing cows; low-voltage, crackling bulbs; houses in various states of decay; idyllic old men… Everyone here makes for the chattering classes over chai. Conversations mainly centre on weddings, and neighbours’ private lives.
Most young in these hinterlands look for an escape. Few find much work locally. The hero (director and actor Aggrawal — more competent as the latter) finds himself a clerk’s job in Mumbai’s Meteorological Department. He ferries himself, like millions others, into a gutter-like city that has no time to care, or stare. He rooms in with a ‘tapori’ road-side Romeo (Ravi Kissen; obnoxiously over-acting). The leading man is quite obviously beffudled by the sweat and insanity of urban life. Street patois comfound him as much: ‘khaali peeli’ (eating, sleeping?).
Devaki’s family visits him from the village. ‘Tapori’ takes them to couples’ cozy corners on Mumbai’s rocky seasides. The father (Om Puri) is appalled by public displays of affection. He calls it low “sabhyata” (civilisation). The dad’s just married his son off to a girl he’s not allowed to meet, let alone share sweet somethings with. This clash of cultures is for a film, a pertinent premise. The wife getting picked up by cops, mistaken for a ‘bar dancer’ — the entire picture thence — hardly counts for much of a plot.
Neither a probing satire nor a roaring laugh, neither fish nor fowl, I guess, it’s Na Ghar Ke Ghat Ke then. DVDs of Shyam Benegal’s box-office hit Welcome To Sajjanpur, I suppose, should be out by now. You must pick it up for the evening, if the backdrop delights you.