By Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
The problem, with a film about a couple grappling with the grim reality of an autistic offspring is that it gets past the check-post of cynicism on the table itself.
And yet I'm surprised to see a lot of critical disapproval for debutant director Kaushik Roy's gentle elegiac look at a dysfunctional family from behind closed doors.
To be simple is very difficult in a film about domestic drama. The maker is constantly tempted to bring in images removed from reality to counter-balance the portrait of a mundane every day life.
Kaushik keeps the narrative constantly equanimous, avoiding overt sentimentality so that when moving moments ensue, you're …well, moved! Watch the withdrawn father bond with his forlorn son in the Holi sequence. It melts your heart.
A large part of the screen space is occupied by the 15-year old boy's confused relationship with his estranged parents. It is quite obvious that the couple stopped seeing eye to eye because of their child. And the husband blames himself for Buddhi's predicament.
Irrfan and Shobana take their roles far beyond the obvious. Here are two performances that go beyond the precincts of the script.
Irrfan's part is complex. He's a shirker, escapist and a bit of a jerk, avoiding the domestic domain for lunches and drinking sessions with colleagues who are constantly embarrassed by his boisterous self-regard. Irrfan never hesitates in entering dark territories of human nature. He plays the escapist with rare understanding and com-passion.
And to see the lovely Shobana finally doing a Hindi film is a pleasure to treasure beyond measure. Shobana is the last of our danseuse-actresses. Is it a coincidence she's named after her illustrious aunt Padmini in Apna Aasman? And is it a mere chance that this film moves you without trying to do so?
Kaushik makes no calculated moves for tears. His outflow of domestic emotions is so straight and direct, you are swept into the very private anguish of a couple who craves to see their son being as normal as the neighbour’s child.
Of course there are glitches. The boy who plays Buddhi tends to lose track of his character's graph. But between them Irrfan and Shobana cultivate a climate of complete conviction for this uneven but heartwarming study of anguish in places where it can't be seen. Kaushik makes the intangible visible. Apna Aasman isn't the greatest film ever made. But it's certainly sincere brave and heartwarming.