An unusual poetic narrative of a usual contemporary saga of the Indian disapora in Britain, interlaced artistically with some brilliant verses and gratifying performances.
The plot: The delusion of a happy Indian family shatters on the untimely death of their binding factor, Manju (Sharmila Tagore). Equations shift through a six-day period from the day of her death to her funeral. Unfortunately, the relationships are all ho-hum stock clichés. Sanjay (Girish Karnad), King Lear of the family, with his rigid views, is the typical Indian male. His anti-Muslim stance predictably gets a jolt when he discovers that youngest daughter Dia (Soha Ali Khan) is dating Imtiaz (Rez Kempton) and is pregnant too. Sanjay has not much option left but to give up his burden of principles and accept Dia with Imtiaz. Then there’s Tulli (Neerja Naik) in a live-in lesbian relationship while Lollita (Mukulika Banerjee) contends with a freaky workaholic husband as she raises her two kids. With so much swirling around the Bengali family, Uncle Alok (Om Puri), the humour element for the kids, discloses that his friend Sanjay had neglected Manju in the initial years and in helping her come to terms with it, he (Alok) had got close to her. At every phase of this string of emotional discords, each character surfaces and the much ignored Manju is remembered.
The good: The first thing are the visuals taken on a panoramic set on London with DOP Robert Shacklady creating stunning frames on the RED camera. A special mention must be made of the scene where Sharmila Tagore walks through a canopy of trees. Another striking (read different) factor is the music; brilliant compositions by a young Soumik Datta give a soulful Indian yet contemporary flavor to the film. For the first time in film music history, Rabindranath Tagore’s songs have been translated into Hindi while retaining the original tunes of the poet. Also, the director’s attempt to bring out a lot more than just the emotional turbulences while facing the loss of someone is evident and must be appreciated.
The bad: Any drama must be stretched long enough to actually give you a feel of it. But when it gets overstretched and sluggish, it loses its beauty. This film should have been crisper for the emotions to come out but not to tire you. The cliché situations – anti-Muslim, lesbianism et al – make you wince at the lack of freshness. The character of Om Puri should have been built up better rather than treating him as a joke-blurting machine at odd times.
Overall: There’s an attempt to watch seen-before scenes through a new lens. Go for it if you want to watch a Bengali family cope with emotional vicissitudes.
– Pooja Thakkar