If you are a regular follower of the blog, by now you must be aware of our association with this week’s release, Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan. That’s why it’s bit difficult for us to be impartial about it and so we haven’t reviewed the film.
Our friend Avinash Verma has come to our rescue, and hopefully, impartial too. Here’s his post on the film. (Mild SPOILERS)
How do you cope with someone’s unexpected loss who you imagined spending the rest of your life with? All those dreams come crashing down, tears pouring through your eyes incessantly for days and months. How hard is it to move on, to Fly Away Solo (which is the English Title of Masaan)
Whose moral is it anyway? Why is sex still a four letter word? Is ‘Jigyaasa mitaana’ (Curbing the curiosity) a sin even when you are a consenting adult? Is the people making love inside a rented hotel room less moral than the ones necking in a public park?
These are some of the questions that this film tries to grapple with. The title ‘Masaan’ means a crematorium, a place where life ends but this ‘Babel-ish’ film is about hopeful happenstances from which life reemerges.
Vidyadhar Pathak is an ex Sanskrit Professor scraping the bottom (of Ganga, quite literally here) to pay off the ransom to a corrupt police officer to prevent his daughter from becoming a YouTube ‘viral sensation’.
The daughter, Devi (Richa Chadha), is a computer teacher who is now looking for an escape from the narrow streets and the equally narrow mindsets of the citizens of Kashi, once the glorious abode of the omniscient sages, now a pit of greedy police inspectors and judgmental, vulgar MCPs.
Deepak, the guy who wants to get out of the rut of crushing dead bodies’ skulls at Harishchandra Ghat falls in love with poetry loving Shaalu (the cherubic debutante, Shweta Tripathi), the youngest one of the upper caste Gupta family who leave no chance to take pride in their family name, even if it is at a random Dhaba on the highway which has absolutely nothing to do with their clan. It might as well be someone way below their caste cooking the food inside the kitchen, but for them, the food is delicious coz the joint is owned by ‘Guptas’ (albeit ‘Salad baasi tha’ coz cribbing is our national pastime)
I wish the Guptas knew this before the tragedy.
First love is special, for everyone, no matter how long or short does it last & to capture that innocence, charm and hormonal curiosity is what Masaan does exceedingly well. The heart shaped balloons, the glances exchanged in stealth mode, the endless conversations on CDMA phones, the insistence on calling each other ‘Tum’ & not ‘Aap’, the surprise bike/boat rides, the awkward, confusing yet celestial first kiss, the ingenuous gifts, the fights, patch ups and the determination to conquer the world coz she is not afraid to elope with you and you got to be prepared if it ever comes to that.
मैं हूँ पानी के बुलबुले जैसा, तुझे सोचूँ तोह फूट जाता हूँ … That’s exactly how fragile you are when cupid strikes you for the first time.
In ‘As good as it gets’, Jack Nicolson’s character pays a compliment to Helen Hunt’s saying “You make me want to be a better man”. Aren’t all love stories essentially that? The struggle to become a better person because deep down you know that the one who loves you deserves a way better version of you. Deepak’s struggle to become the better man before and after his personal apocalypse is what left me emotionally consumed.
It would have been very interesting the see what would have happened if Deepak-Shalu’s story had moved forward the way we were expecting it to but… well.
The grief is real. Deepak, Devi & Vidyadhar, all three are going through hell & it’s beautifully portrayed by Vicky Kaushal (Whatte brilliant debut!), Richa Chadha & Sanjay Mishra (I felt that Vidyadhar is just an extension of the good natured Babuji from Ankho Dekhi, and that is, IMO, perfect casting). The crying, the silences, the empty gazes into space imagining the various ‘What ifs’, sitting like a zombie in front of a TV that asks you to recognize an actor’s badly morphed face to win a lottery, the yearning for closure, the desperation that lets you risk a child’s life for money, the frustration that makes you smack your daughter and the helplessness that makes you cry in her lap, the uncontrollable wailing in the arms of friends who are clueless how to console you coz they simply don’t know how to and throwing away the things that doesn’t let you let go of the memories of your loved one and then immersing yourself into deep waters to find them back again.
The conflicts are real. The tears are real.
And that’s precisely why you should see Banaras & its four residents via Masaan’s lens. The silences speak volumes and some frames are more eloquent than some films could ever be in their entirety.
Except the oddly convenient intersection of both the narratives at the end, this film, rich with character, atmosphere and superb situational humor, is an extremely self-assured debut (of the director Neeraj Ghaywan, the screenwriter Varun Grover, and the editor Nitin Baid) and has so much to offer that the climax don’t bother you that much.
‘Bhor’ engulfs you by the time the lights come back in the theatre and all you want to do is to fly away, solo.
PS: Loved the fact that Inspector Mishra had a daughter. Wished that Sadhya ji got more screen time.
(Avinash is an Ex-MICAn. His full time job is to watch movies and in his free time he pretends to be a Digital Marketeer. He loves indie films and likes to be comfortably numb whenever he can. Also, hates all the ads Ranbir Kapoor is in. His earlier post is here.)