Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer 2007

Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 160 Minutes
Release Date : 13th June ‘08
Director : Suhail Tatari; Writer : Bijesh Jayarajan ; Music : Gourav Dasgupta
Starring : Sikander Kher, Gul Panag, Alekh Sangal, Uvika Choudhary, Arjan Bajwa, Prashant Naraynan, Ashutosh Rana

I’m going to give the film 10 for intent / content and then deduct 3 for cinematic failings and a slightly preachy script / ending. It highlights an issue (of farmer suicides) that somehow, to paraphrase the laconic words of a good doctor in the movie, gets overshadowed in our daily news by Bollywood gossip, cricket, some child falling in a hole etc. This movie brings you face to face with this reality, takes us out of our air-conditioned comfort zone and shows us what life really is like in villages, where people commit suicide for amounts we would find trifling. A word of caution – this film is not for the squeamish, there are several very uncomfortable, gory moments

It tells the story of a gang of five medical students (the first 5 characters in the star cast above), a mixed bag of characters, all fairly well off, mostly self-centered except for Gul Panag (affectionately known as Mother T because of her militant / rebellious / over-zealous helping tendencies). To flee a minor troublesome issue in college, they decide to go for their mandatory rural service with the plan being to choose a place near Goa, where they can chill out etc. They however, arrive smack bang in the middle of a spate of farmer suicides, to join a seemingly indifferent doctor, a local toughie who is the grain provider cum money lender of the village and his goon-like son, who is single handedly responsible for no female help willing to work in their household. How they slowly become involved in the life and the issues of the village is the focus of the second half. And it doesn’t always make for very pleasant watching.

For me the crucial cinematic shortcomings were the length (its quite a long watch at almost three hours), the fact that it’s a bit preachy, a bit forced in parts. And that a lot of the characters weren’t really developed – so we didn’t understand fully how / why they changed and got involved in a battle which was ‘none of their business’ to begin with. Also, in the first half, some the dialogue tries too hard to be ‘cool’ and ‘with it’ so it doesn’t really work. The music (both the background score and the rather ‘forced’ songs) detracts from the movie plot.

The acting, though not truly consistent, is good. Sikander – the leader of the group – was ok. His acting is not great but is likely to get better over time. Gul Panag was good, credible in her acting, as you would expect though her character was a bit too screechy / do-gooder for my liking. The real stars were Arjan Bajwa, the Casanova of the group, the guy who actually looked cool without trying too hard and made his presence felt despite having the least screen time. The doctor of the village, very well played by Ashutosh Rana, a man who wants to do good but is not beyond human vices (sex, drink). And the son of the local toughie, played by Prashant Naraynan (last seen by me in the brilliant Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II), who again churns out a strong performance.

I hope the film results in a few things. More medical students (and why not other / MBA students etc) wanting to do rural service as part of their course. More institutions offering micro-finance coming up through the country. And finally, us, the urban city slickers, being a bit more sensitized to the issues most farmers face in their life, a life so far removed from ours, that they could literally be living on another planet. I hope next time there is an article about farmer suicides, we will actually read it rather than skipping straight away to the sports page. Given the almost disastrous box-office response of the film though, this may be too much to hope for.


Anonymous said...

Will watch this movie this weekend postively.. However your setence which read " More medical students (and why not other / MBA students etc) wanting to do rural service as part of their course. More institutions offering micro-finance coming up through the country." may not come true.. I wished it did work like that though. You also mentioned that ppl skip the farmer story to read the sports session but there are people who dont do that too. This movie has not so good review among ppl when I enquired..The so called youth! I wish movies could bring about changes in life I would ensure all I know watched all of them .Thanks, Bee

Unknown said...

I believe the most important criteria for a movie (apart from intent/message, cast, budget) is how WELL it is made. I am prepared to watch an absolutely pointless movie (e.g. Munnabhai, Sarkar, Spiderman, Partner, Evil Dead etc) because these are WELL MADE.

Thats the problem with Hindi movies this year - they are just poorly made, seems to be no incentive to have a well put together story, casting, acting etc. The crowds (including my wife who watched that Baap Mera Bhai (?) movie last week) seem to come anyway.