Monday, January 14, 2008

Dharm


Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 103 minutes
Release Date : 8th Jun ‘07
Director : Bhavna Talwar ; Writer : Varun Gautam / Vibha Singh ; Music : Debajyoti Mishra
Starring : Pankaj Kapur, Supriya Pathak Kapur, Hrishta Bhatt, Krish, KK Raina, Dayashankar Pandey, Pankaj Tripathi.


Most people across the world have their religious prejudices and Indians are no exception. The anti-Muslim prejudice is probably the strongest one and the cause of most grief for us over the last 50 years, despite India being the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. And as outlined in the review of Mr & Mrs Iyer, it shows no sign of abating...

Now thats just the common man. What if you're Pandit Chaturvedi (Pankaj Kapur) ? A man with a very strong standing in Benares, the head priest of the local Shiv Mandir. A man who bathes twice if touched by a sweeper, who insists his wife (Supriya Pathak, his real-life wife as well) bathes before serving food, is always punctual no matter what. A man who lives life as per the Manu Smriti, the ancient Hindu text. Fate puts them in charge of an abandoned baby boy, which his wife and daughter manage to persuade him to 'adopt'. At first hesitatingly, but then increasingly, over the next four years, he and the child, named Kartikey, develop a strong bond. Imagine his shock when one day, the child's mother returns to claim him again. And it turns out the child is Muslim....

Bhavna, in her directorial debut is very assured and deft in her handling of this complex topic and manages to communicate the angst and dilemma Pandit Chaturvedi goes through extremely well. Pankaj Kapur is brilliant once again, looking every inch the all-knowing Pandit. I think we're privileged to have him and 3-4 extremely good chamaleonic character actors in our midst currently, including Vinay Pathak, Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani, Rajat Kapur amongst others. KK Raina and Pankaj Tripathi, playing a local rich man and his rebellious, angry son respectively, were also very good as was Dayashankar Pandey as a 'rival' mercenary pandit. The cinematography is breathtaking, calm and serene, a nice contrast to the turmoil Panditji's going through mentally and the communal riots around them. The end left me a bit unfulfilled – however, can't elaborate why without giving it away, so will desist.

I love movies which provoke, engage the brain, force you to choose sides. This is one of them. As the official website says 'Manavta Paramo Dharm' – I cannot agree more and it saddens me that most religions or rather its practioners have drifted from this core. And yes, I think this would have been a more worthy entry for the Oscars instead of Eklavya.

1 comment:

Bee said...

Well not watched the movie yet.. It reminds me of those art movies in Malyalam.. very well done..All I know is that Bhavna was with Asian age as a journalist.. and that the movie was selected for screening in the recently held Cannes Film Festival.. i have seen the movie preview though..Pankaj kapur is one of my favourite actors from my childhood.. i find him getting into the skin of the character.. Look forward to watching the movie soon.. Thanks