Love, Life and Death
Film: Masaan (with English subtitles)
Cast: Richa Chaddha, Vicky Kaushal, Sanjay Mishra
Directed by: Neeraj Ghaywan
Duration: 1 hr 43 mins
Rating: * * * 1 / 2
Debutant director Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan which picked up a couple of awards at Cannes this year has a very simple story at the heart of it, but it is the manner in which it is told that leaves an indelible impression. It celebrates love, life and serves a reminder of the ultimate fate that awaits all of us.
The beauty of Masaan lies in the way in draws us into the world of the characters, slowly and steadily they start growing on you. We have Devi (Richa Chaddha) who meets a guy she likes in a seedy little hotel but things take a turn for the worst. She is a feisty young lady who knows how to take it on her chin. But her father (Sanjay Mishra) a retired Sanskrit professor who does translation work and runs a small shop on the ghats of Banaras is devastated. Although he is not the typical male who likes to keep control of all that his daughter does, this is a heavy blow for him. Moreover, he is also being blackmailed by a police officer (Bhagwan Tiwari)
The parallel story that runs is of Deepak (debutant Vicky Kaushal, impressive) who is all set to become an engineer. But he comes from the family of domes, who cremate bodies on the ghats of the river Ganga. And bodies are burnt by the dozen there- skulls have to be crushed so that the soul can be released. It is a different yet intriguing world out there.
They are a marginalized community but in a way, Deepak has broken the barrier in terms of getting decent education. But he still has to lend a helping hand to his family’s profession. It is love at first sight when he sees this girl (Shweta Tripathi). But in more ways than one, they are quite distinct – she loves the poetry of Nida Fazli, Basheer Badr and Mirza Ghalib, he hardly has any clue as to who they are and honestly admits it. Symbolically balloons are released, Facebook friendship request is accepted and love is professed. But in many parts of the country, the first thing is to check after falling in love is the caste of the other person. That could make or break things.
Writer Varun Grover and director Ghaywan touch on these issues but the larger picture is more than just that. You are left wanting more of the innocent romance and their exchanges, there is a certain purity to it.
When you have multiple threads in a story, the ending is always a bit tricky – I was left with mixed feelings.
There are some wonderfully crafted scenes, take the father-daughter exchange for example, that is a fine piece of writing, or the character of the lonely railway employee (Pankaj Tripathi) who works with Devi. There are many such endearing moments in the film.
And then there is Banaras, the city. Cinematographer Avinash Arun (who directed the award winning Marathi film Killa) captures the essence of the city in the most unobtrusive way. While the heart of the city is evident, subtlety is also the name of the game of here. One particular shot where the kids jump into the river makes you wish you had a remote control to rewind and watch it again.
The background score by Frenchman Bruno Coulais and the songs by Indian Ocean are apt. On the acting front, Sanjay Mishra and Richa Chaddha fit the bill, but the youngsters Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi steal the show here.
Masaan is well worth a trip to the theatres, besides you can also applaud the changing face of Indian cinema.
Published in The Navhind Times on 26th July 2015