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October 6, 2000

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An honest film about dishonesty

Director Hansal Mehta had once told rediff.com that it was difficult to categorise his film or describe what genre his film belonged to.
We agree.
True, shades of Satya and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro coat Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar.
But...out and out commercial film? Or art film?
Sharmila Taliculam converses with Kanchana Suggu to find out.
And, in the process, got a lot more than bargained for!
The conversation:

Must confess, Kanchana, that I think this film is striking despite the unoriginal small-town-boy-coming-to-the-dream-city story.

True, Sharmila.
I mean, the "innocent village boy coming to the big city with dreams in his head and rupee signs in his eyes" story is as old as the hills.
Older, maybe! (grin)
But then, thankfully, it isn't one of those goody-goody films where the hero fights all odds to emerge winner in the end.
I, for one, am of the belief that there is a lesson in each frame of the film. Every character has something to say, each person signifies something -- a side to human nature, something you can identify with, so to speak -- and that's what hits you hard.
Real hard.

Hmm. I'll buy the lesson-in-each-frame. For now.
What I can't understand is, must everybody who comes here and doesn't make it big the honest way HAVE to resort to dishonesty, murder?
Is that the only way out? I mean, is that not stereotypical again? The Bombay-is-the-big-bad-city-trash-it-to-smithereens syndrome?

You bet. Here you are, hoping that that Ram Saran Pandey (Manoj Bajpai) succeeds, gets rich through his honesty, hard work and his principles, through his father's preaching.
And then, it is so, so disheartening to see he doesn't.
Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Well, at least Manoj Bajpai as Pandey is likeable.
Now, that can't be said of Kaamya (Tabu).
Consider: You are a journalist. You ought to be identifying with her.
Instead, a little indefinable something jars when she plays tough journalist.
One thing I do think: Kaamya's role is more of a storyteller than a character. And her transition from character to storyteller was smooth. All credit to Hansal Mehta for that.
Another thing I definitely believe: Mahesh Bhatt (as himself in the film) is a better director than he is actor.

You know, your indefinable something could be because Tabu's role was kind of abrupt.
All through the first half, she is shown as this honest person, who likes Ram Saran. She's always there for him; she goes in and out of his house as she pleases; she even wants to help him find a new job.
To top all of that, she even quits smoking at his request.
Then, all of an inexplicable sudden, she turns into this cold person. Devoid of compassion, she looks at Ram Saran as this golden egg. But then, she has reason to feel that way towards him, doesn't she?
But yeah, to come to your point, she does slowly turn into a storyteller after a strong initial presence.

I'm not sure that's entirely a bad thing. Because let's not forget that the film revolves around Ram Saran and his honesty, and his cheating videographer friend Gaitonde (Saurabh Shukla).
Here, I must digress. I admire Saurabh Shukla for his true-to-life scripts.
Look at Ram Saran's friends. They live in a small room, all eight of them. All in the -- to repeat -- big, bad city, which can kill you if you let it. This dream city is not really a dream is it?
But, but, but. All eight friends still look at the bright side of life.
If I have one grouse, it's that Shukla's scripts dwell too much on the underworld like Satya.

Well, probably that's because a lot of these na´ve village boys get easily sucked into the underworld -- easy money, after all.
If you can commit one murder, what's to stop you from a hundred more? That's what happens to Ram Saran. Too many closed doors in his face will only result in desperation and helplessness, and a life of crime.
(Slowly getting excited) But don't you think Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar is Manoj Bajpai all the way?
The man is brilliant! Innocence, vulnerability, honesty, ethics -- he evokes them so beautifully.

(Smiles)Right you are. What amazing style. He makes such a convincing car mechanic!
Tabu, as the modern, ambitious journalist, is very good, too. I thought the two complemented each other perfectly.
You know what? I thought the dream sequence, Pagal had an interesting picturisation. The sudden jump from reality to dream was great.
I thought it brought out Ram Saran's infatuation for a woman he thinks is very straight and simple like him.
Another point: Vishal Bhardwaj's music is quite commendable. Regular, too. No complications like A R Rahman's music.

Most definitely. The music gels perfectly with the story, the characters and their lives.
I loved the opening number Swagatam suswagatam. It kind of set the mood for the rest of the story.
The lyrics and the picturisation of the song present life in Bombay pretty well.

That's a good point. A well-shot film, after a long time!
And I thought the scene in which Ram Saran and Gaitonde are siting on the sidewalk pouring out their personal problems, when Gaitonde's scooter is carted away by the towaway van, was funny.
And there are many such scenes. Only, in the second half it gets serious and loses pace.

But then the climax has the film moving at rapid speed.
Yes, but did you notice one thing? The first half was the show-everyone's-good-side part. Every character was at his best -- whether it was Ram Saran, Kaamya, Gaitonde, Gaitonde's wife, Gayatri, or even his 'foreign-return' friend Tito.
And, hey presto, in the second half, Kaamya becomes a user. Gayatri has an affair with Tito. Gaitonde wants to just make money even at the cost of endangering his best friend's life.
I mean, something is not quite right here. Why did e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e have to turn out so bad?

Insecurity, for one.
Makes a person immune to other's faults. Ram Saran is alone in the city and he needs somebody to go home to. And Gaitonde is that person. So he tolerates him despite Gaitonde double-crossing him.
But look at it this way. The film looked at life with humour and tolerance. Like Kaamya puts it, "Ram Saran's story has not ended on a pessimistic note, there is optimism, too."

Oh yes. It is an honest film. And it touches your heart.

Good enough reasons in my book for someone to want to see the film.

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