Love Songs: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
By: Sonia Chopra
Critic's Rating: 17/5
Friday 28 March 2008
Love Songs: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Jaya Bachchan, Om Puri, Mallika Sarabai, Rajit Kapoor, Neil Bhoopalam
Rohan (Prithviraj Choudhury), a student, arrives in Kolkata to spend holidays with his grandmother Mridula Chatterjee (Jaya Bachchan) whom he fondly calls Nans.
Having lost his mother Pulaash when he was little, Rohan is now intrigued to know the missing pieces of his life and also Nans?s relationship with one Abdul Jaffer that could never see fruition.
Rohan and girlfriend Tara (Doel Basu) prod Nans to pour her heart out and Mridula begins telling her story. The film is almost unbearable till here, due to the unforgivably bad acting by the actors who play the in-love students. The dialogue is pompous and unnatural with lines like `Yes, we were falling in love? (who talks like that). Hold on till here, and then on, the film is pure cinematic joy.
We are introduced to a young Mridula who is drawn to the intellectual Aftab Jafferey (Om Puri), but sacrifices him for her parents who are opposed to Aftab belonging to a different religion. Secretly pregnant before she got married, Mridula delivers a baby girl soon after and names her Pulaash (Shahana Chatterjee).
Mridula?s husband, who is always too immersed in work to pay any attention to her, dies an untimely death and Mridula takes recourse in running an NGO for challenged children. It is for a research mission that she has to go to out-of-town and stay in a couple?s home for the weekend as their guest.
She meets lady-of-the-house Rabia (Mallika Sarabai), a stunningly beautiful woman, who seems quite fed up of life. Wretchedly lonely and a depressive, Rabia has turned to alcoholism to deal with the lack of affection in her marriage. As fate would have it, there is one more surprise in store for Mridula that day.
When it comes to dealing with relationships between loved ones, it?s always tougher to show the uglier side. Like Tara?s mother (who is also Mridula?s assistant at the NGO), remarks ? `a mother-daughter relationship is always a complex one?.
Mridula?s life known no peace as her Pulaash grows up to become a nightclub singer and marries a musician Dev, despite Mridula?s discontent at the match. Irreverent, irresponsible, and addicted to freedom without responsibilities, Pulaash and Dev start having problems during which Pulaash runs to her mother.
These problems get more and more serious as they have a son Rohan and responsibilities escalate. The still-childish Pulaash is unable to deal with her troubles and expects Mridula to solve everything for her and also help take care of Rohan.
This is truly every home?s story, more or less, and to see it on screen is a cathartic and moving experience. Many issues are questioned here ? Do Dev and Pulaash really love each other. If yes, why can?t they tolerate each other? If no, why can?t they stay apart? Mridula also questions this couple?s refusal to accept maturity wondering where they are bohemian or simply irresponsible.
Now why the title Love Songs? Because the story unfolds through songs in the background that talk of relationships at that stage. A unique approach that you can choose to relish or ignore and still enjoy the story.
The cast is the film?s biggest strength and weakness. Jaya Bachchan?s performance is so real, earnest and heartfelt; you connect with Mridula instantly and like her immensely. Shahana Chatterjee is over-the-top several times; yes, that?s part of who Pulaash is, but a few tones lighter would have been more realistic.
The actor playing Dev is fantastic and he brings out the character of the musician who?s in a love-hate relationship with his wife effectively. Om Puri is dependably good. But you have to see Mallika Sarabai?s rendering as Rabia to appreciate the scope of her talent. As the depressive whose taken refuge in drinking, yet has a spark about her hidden somewhere, you feel greatly for her, and all of them are mixed emotions ranging from sympathy to admiration.
Both these women, Mridula and Rabia, have more parallels than they would realise.
Mridula meanwhile tries to maintain her importance in the relationship with her always-demanding daughter and has to go through a hill of emotions every time she leaves Pulaash to fend for her problems alone.
Love Songs marks the return of journalist-poet-author Jayabrato Chatterjee to filmmaking after 22 years. This is a wonderful film about love, the lack of it, the importance of it and its hypocrisy; and about relationships complex like a web. A must-watch for those who enjoy sensitive slice-of-life films.
Verdict: 21/2 stars