Un Certain Regard, Cannes and ‘selected for Jarganahalli International Film Festival’ (cue: insert bad joke) etc were the terms bandied about when I first heard of a movie called Masaan by Neeraj Ghaywan. An Anurag Kashyap protege, Ghaywan gives a fresh perspective of the young, restless, sometimes reckless and mostly progressive India. An India that gives us a glimmer of hope when we see the credits roll.
Half-expecting a bore fest, I began watching Masaan with a slightly disinterested attitude. Perhaps that is the reason I found the movie to be really interesting. Things pan out organically and money shots are hard to find.
Set on the banks of Ganges, Masaan narrates parallel stories of a female and a male protagonist. The way the story unfolds and finds resonance with Ganges and its relationship with Hinduism is great.
The young restless India is shown as aspiring and like everyone, they want to have a better life even if it is at the cost of leaving the roots and migrating to a more urban landscape. The story of the Panditji’s daughter and the boy from the lowly Dom community whose traditional job is to set the funeral pyres on fire hold our attention. With my limited knowledge of Hinduism and its belief, I understand that scattering cremated ashes over the waters of Ganges is the ultimate ritual that any relative can do for the deceased for his/her spiritual benefit. The benefit being perhaps a better rebirth or getting closer to Moksha.
Ganges is both a character and metaphor in the story and this story is intertwined with the lives of people living on the banks of Ganges. Out of which, the director throws light on a girl who falls in love with her student and a boy who falls in love with a girl totally out of his league by virtue of being from an upper caste. Both of these relationships are taboo or forbidden when we look at it from the eye of social conventions/mores.
The story is also about rebirth or drawing parallels with real life, a second chance at life. The pace of the movie is languid, yet it holds your attention with excellent comedy and some great acting. The cast is led by the extremely talented Richa Chadda and veteran Sanjay Mishra. Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi are some really good actors for the future.
The writing is excellent and the story flows very organically with interesting concepts like people from the old generation coming to terms with new technology and the youth taking to Facebook like there’s no tomorrow. The theme is very relatable and everything is held together beautifully by excellent chemistry between the actors and the directors creative vision.
The writer, Varun Grover, of Gangs of Wasseypur fame (the playful Womaniya lyrics and most of the songs from Part 1 and 2) is proving to be a great writer. We can expect great things from this young and extremely creative lyricist and now scriptwriter in the days to come.
Neeraj Ghaywan can take credit and be really proud of Masaan, a movie with a heart and lots of optimism although the movie starts on a very tragic note. The best thing about the movie is that although there is a palpable sense of impending doom, it attempts to say that things are not as bad as they seem to be!