16 August 2015 | Krishna_Sriram
Subtle, nuanced and important viewing for the everyday Indian.
In a highly attention deficit generation of Indian cinema, Gour Hari Dastaan manages to stand out by being down-to-earth and unpretentious. Here is a film that silently pulls you into a relationship of engagement, rather than by being loud and calling attention to itself. The heavy subject matter is brilliantly contrasted by the contextual humour that results from the relationship between Gour Hari Das, the protagonist, and Rajeev Singhal, the jaded but supportive journalist who tries to bring his story to the eyes of the public through the newspaper, Mid-Day.
This is really a film of contrasts, between the India of the Raj and contemporary India. The characters are archetypal metaphors for the differences in thoughts between the older generation and the new. In a rapidly accelerating country, this is an important dialogue to be had. 'Gour Hari Dastaan' manages to raise these questions by allowing the audience to use its intelligence to navigate the thoughts, desires and beliefs of its characters - it reveals the complexity of India as a nation, exposing its stifling bureaucracy.
The cinematography by Alphonse Roy carries the story beautifully, highlighting the contrasts between the two India's that are shown in the film. Having been shot on film, the accurate skin tones with the right amount of detail as well as the limited color palette make this a new landmark in contemporary Indian cinematography. Mr. Roy's breathtaking, classical European cinematography combined with beautiful locations and the beautiful production design brings out the beauty of Ye Olde India.
The risk of not using a regular 'filmy' soundtrack with songs and dances has resulted in a tight, focused screenplay and direction. Mr. Ananth Mahadevan does an excellent job at bringing out regularly recurring themes onto the screen, moving the story towards the right direction and keeping the audience engaged with the characters' goals.
The casting is downright excellent. Vinay Pathak delivers as Gour Hari Das, the purist freedom fighter who slowly and quietly fought for his right. Ranveer Shorey is convincing and humorous as Rajeev Singhal, and pulls off the cynical journalist archetype. Konkona Sen Sharma does the job of being the wife of Gour Hari Das, though ardent fans might have wished for more screen-time for her character. The focus is on believability as the screenplay is based on a true story.
God bless this film to receive the accolades and recognition that it deserves. The level of success of this film will reflect on us as the audience, whether we are interested in addressing the state of the country.
Coming back to the question again, was the India of yesteryear better than the India of today?