Masaan

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Masaan
Release date: July 24, 2015
Directed by: Neeraj Ghaywan
Cast: Rich Chadda, Sanjay Mishra, Shweta Tripathi, Vicky Kaushal, Pankaj Tripathi, Nikhil Sahni

Death, relocation, and even a certain kind of trauma all have one thing in common; they can be the catalysts to change. I wrote about change in my review of Killaa Marathi film directed by Avinash Arun, who is also the DP of Masaan. He shoots Neeraj Ghaywan’s film, co-incidentally themed on the similar premise of forbearing to the thrusting waves of change and shaping one’s existence in the ways circumstantial activities force themselves upon the cinematic universe.

This universe is thickly veiled in realistic dimensions, subtly trying to grapple with the major forces of caste-barriers, a narrow-minded populace in a highly idealized place of pilgrimage and plays with innocuous young love. Devi Pathak (Richa Chadda) is the well-mannered, soft spoken daughter of a high-caste Brahman, Vidyadhar Pathak (Sanjay Mishra) who manages to work the computer by the day, eventually earning much more than her father and is more ambitious than he could ever be. In the midst of harboring this ambition, she sees herself in a bad predicament. A predicament which wouldn’t make much sense to a first-world inhabitant, but is a very grave situation for a young lady who aspires to a simple life where she wants to be enabled of leading her life with not much fuss.

On another bank of the Ganges, lives Deepak Chaudhary (Vicky Kaushal) of the Dom community, which has been unceremoniously handed the duty of crushing skulls of bodies that burn in the funeral pyre at the Ghats, so the souls of the dead can leave their bodies, as a character points out. He’s a mechanical engineering student vying for an urbane job that would possibly elevate him from his surroundings into a somewhat fair world where he’ll be judged by his potential and work.

Both of the parallel protagonists are closely connected by the common chord of a form of loss. They face a certain transformation brought along by the loss and try to sail along the calm waters of the Sangam. Devi’s conflict sets in motion at the start of the film, whereas Deepak’s surfaces in the later portion. Deepak’s infatuation and adoration for Shalu (Shweta Tripathi) is perhaps the dynamic that a lot of people in small cities have in their first romantic relationship, one that Devi could have shared with the boy at her workplace, which is never shown. The young love manifests itself very cutely, filled with prized gestures and amateur kissing skills.

Debutantes Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi enact their well-etched parts with equal portions of grace and charm. Never do they let you in on the jitters or any hints of discomfort. Chadda and Mishra are restrained as the emotionally wounded daughter and father. And little Jhonta (Nikhil Sahni) and Sadhya (Pankaj Tripathi) are delightful support players.

These characters indicate the strength in the writing of the film and the execution of combating with grief and other morbid objects isn’t gravely morose as it could have been. The film doesn’t steer clear of heavy drama, unlike stereotyped ‘film-festival’ movies. Neeraj Ghaywan and Varun Grover know when to delve deeper into the confrontations and when to pull back, when there’s a requirement for a breakdown and when there’s a need to stay composed.

Masaan never lets the backdrop of its location, i.e. the town of Banaras, or the shocks of the narrative, take precedence over the entire film. As one of the film’s featured musical composition goes, “Tu kisi rail si guzarti hai, main kisi pul saa… thartharaataa hun.” the film passes by melancholically and rattles you gently.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

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