By: Sonia Chopra
Friday 24 July 2015
Richa Chadda, Sanjay Mishra, Vickky Kaushal, Shwetha Tripathi, Nikhil Sahni, Panjkaj Tripathi
Varanasi: We see one of our central protagonists, Devi (Richa Chaddha) step gingerly into a public loo (the filthy kind flaunted in films to shock an international audience). She comes out dressed up; she’s meeting a guy later on in a seedy local hotel. It seems to be the first time for both of them.
They awkwardly begin to make love, till cops barge in and threaten to inform their parents. The boy, a student, takes a rash step in order to escape the situation. The cop takes a video of her.
Next, is a series of difficult situations that she must traverse. Her ageing father (Sanjay Mishra) has to come up with a huge sum of money. He has to learn to forgive his daughter, who remains stoically unapologetic. "Jigyasa mitaane" (to end curiosity) is the explanation she gives for the act.
Meanwhile, the film shows us the parallel story of an engineering student who falls for a local upper-caste girl. This story has an equal amount of cynical tragedy. The boy belongs to the 'Dom' clan, who work in the Masaan (crematorium). Their work includes, as he informs us, breaking skulls to make it easier for the body to burn. In times of an accident that takes away many lives, they are busier than usual with no time to rest. It is to the credit of actors Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi that the romance comes alive in all its innocence and purity.
The two stories intertwine at some point, and we’re presented a rather neatly wrapped-up finale. The film throws up several pointers. Why must a consenting couple be made to go through humiliation by cops? What kind of people are we, to play a potentially fatal betting game, where kids dive into the river to compete for coins? Does a time when romance blossoms over Facebook mean that we are ready to rise above caste differences?
Richa Chadha is able to bring out Devi’s inner strength and conviction accurately. She’s superb when her eyes flash anger, as someone dares to insult her. But there are times when the performance is lacking in a certain ethnic flavour, especially in her eating mannerisms and body language.
Sanjay Mishra is superb as the conflicted father torn between empathizing with his daughter’s state, while also blaming her for all their troubles. Pankaj Tripathi shines in a small role as Devi’s colleague. Nikhil Sahni, the child playing the role of Jhonta, who stands up when asked to sit down, is simply superb!
The river Ganga plays a poignant role in the film – cleansing, calming, divine and serene despite the atrocities she bears at the hands of humans.
Debut director Neeraj Ghaywan makes a film about love, loss, and longing, that keeps us riveted throughout. Cinematographer Avinash Arun presents the story majestically with striking visuals.
The film has its faults in the pacing, which is often too measured for its own good. The serendipitous finale, ties up the two ends neatly, perhaps too neatly.
But the film must be watched for it is as path-breaking as it is predictable, as brutal as it is tender, and as cynical as it is romantic!
Rating: Three and a half stars