23 January 2006 | Aam_Aadmi
Stylistic and intellectually driven art-house production
Shyam Benegal directs this 1993 film based on Bharti's Hindi novel. The highly experienced cast and talented production team manage to cook up a rich tapestry of semi-dream-like experiences of a young man, entering into adulthood. Using a story-teller mosaic, the narrator (Rajat Kapur) goes back and forth over the lives of 3 women whom he was involved with in his high-school and early college.
Simple-minded country bumpkins do lead colorful complicated lives filled with drama and intensity. Surely but occasionally. Mostly not as it is shown here. There's somewhat of a mismatch between the rural atmosphere and the refined, educated, urbane, clean-cut protagonist. That cavalier attitude of his ('Look, I've arrived') doesn't give it away, rather it only serves to confound. Benegal conditions you from the very start not to expect great drama until the very end. Watching the dead-pan account with an equally dead-pan expression is all you can do. Use of purist as opposed to colloquial Hindi fails to have the desired effect. Could be due to Benegal's early background in documentaries for Films Division, NFDC, 'Door'darshan, et al.
If one watches such movies at a theater, it will either be mostly empty to start with, or mostly empty within 10 min., or most certainly mostly empty halfway thru i.e you can sit anywhere post-interval and munch on your popcorn. Audiences thumb it down, and the producers foolishly tell themselves its because viewers are illiterate, they don't get it, etc.
No doubt the screenplay, direction, photography, etc are all top-notch. But if there's no drama and not much entertainment, why blame viewers? Style alone can't substitute for substance.
The movie made no ripples at the box-office and disappeared without a trace (can't blame that on Shahrukh-Madhuri). Left a lot to be desired by way of suggestibility (not suspense, go figure!)