By Subhash K. Jha Bollywood Hungama News Network
A mellow, mirthful at times moving tale of three North Indian migrants, this tale of tantalizing possibilities may not be Mr. Raj Thackeray's idea of an evening out. Dammit , it may not be ANYONE's idea of an entertainer. But for a discerning audience, Barah Aana brings in a sense of un-visited surprise.
There are three main characters, a quiet driver Shukla (Naseeruddin Shah), a watchman Yadav (Vijay Raaz) and a waiter Aman (Arjun Mathur) all driven to the doors of despair but stopped in time by a self-directed sense of humour that saves them from self-destruction. The 3-way interactive story gathers momentum when the trio hits on an age-old formula for survival: crime.
Superbly scripted by Raj Kumar Gupta who recently directed the riveting Aamir, Barah Aana derives its strength from the frailties and vulnerabilities of the three migrant characters who seem to be drawn into the dark side of life without knowing where they're heading. Debutant director Raja Menon seems to view the people in his plot with a reasonable degree of detachment. There's a sense of riveting finesse in the way these unsophisticated characters chart their course without self pity.
Of course the film would've never worked without the cast. What does one say about Naseeruddin Shah without sounding completely like a fan? He's seen in two totally different avatars this week. Naseer's bullied embittered silently-seething driver's part in this film is as distant from his disoriented classical maestro's role in Firaaq as only Naseer can make them .Vijay Raaz, always in top form when given to play a man who has seen life without rose-tinted glasses , gives a sly snarling spin to his role. His performance has both bark and bite. Watch Vijay play the watchman.
The youngest and most inexperienced member of the trio Arjun Mathur seen in sensitive parts in Farhan Akhtar's AIDS film Positive and Zoya Akhtar's Luck By Chance has a tough time holding his own against Naseer and Vijay Raaz and also holding his Bihari accent in place. But Mathur leaves a positive impression. Another riveting performance comes from Tannishtha Chatterjee as the flamboyant Rani who shocks you after her quiet performance in Brick Lane. She should be seen more often.
With the message on migrant's plight Barah Aana would hardly appeal to multiplex audiences. Films on lives of migrants whether it's Muzaffar Ali's Daman or Sudhir Mishra's Dharavi score high as cinematic works but low on mass appeal.
See Barah Aana for its terrific cast, first-rate production values (Preeti Sethi's camera goes through Mumbai's lanes with the least fuss) and the director's firm grip on the grammar of grass-root politics.