Varun Grover
(Screenplay & Dialogue)


Movie Review
MASAAN:Tale of transitions, of cinema and India

Director Neeraj Ghaywan had made two short films, Shor and The Epiphany, both of which received commendation over social networking. His debut feature film Masaan then won two awards at Cannes Film Festival this year, namely FIPRESCI, International Jury of Film Critics prize and Promising Future prize in the Un Certain Regard section. It has now found a substantial release in its own country, affirming the evolving notion that a new cinema movement – shall we call it the Indie film circuit, because the old tags ‘parallel’ or ‘art-house’ cinema don’t sound cool anymore – in India is picking speed. It’s a delightful sight indeed.  

Masaan finds drama in areas mainstream films don’t even dare to look at – In what capacity and how excruciatingly are our small towns transforming? What becomes of the girl whose half-covered face you see on the pages of newspapers, with the headline – ‘Police Bust Prostitution Racket’? Can there be another side to that story? Does that boy wish to break away from the stigmatic inheritance whose father, and forefathers, have only been performing rituals for a living, at crematories? How does he feel in his own house, having known that his love interest will never step into this place because of social preconceptions? These are the questions Ghaywan’s film gets you interested in.

Masaan (screenplay & dialogue by Varun Grover) has a multiple-protagonist narrative, mainly involving Devi (Richa Chadda) and Deepak (debutant Vicky Kaushal, impressive!). Her boyfriend committed suicide due to police instigation (the couple was found in a hotel room, and blackmailed, for the obvious reasons) while he’s a motivated young boy belonging to a lower caste who falls in love with an upper caste girl named Shaalu (Shweta Tripathi). Along with these two, a third strand runs parallel in which Devi’s father pandit Vidyadhar (Sanjay Mishra) struggles at two ends – to make peace with his own daughter and to settle the court case by somehow arranging the bribe-cum-extortion money for the corrupt Inspector Mishra (Bhagwan Tiwari).

Masaan gets a lot of things right. Like an unabashedly realistic portrayal of the modern day non-urbanized India – in which the younger generation is trying hard, and happily so, to break away from the old norms. It has an earthy treatment of small-town love which is as palpable as classical love stories - In which the lovers still know to blush and become nervous to meet each other in private. The story finds resonance in the everyday occurrences of the northern hinterlands which haven’t yet become like big metros but find themselves embracing modernity while being held back, at the same time, by family honor, following traditional occupations, the fear of public shame etcetera.

Where it falters, or rather say - takes a dip, is in the later portion of the second half when the dramatic intensity of the events, hits a low. This is when the emotional investment with the characters has been making one almost salivate for a grand finish, which could have come from the individual stories culminating into a higher-intensity climax. That isn’t the route the screenplay chooses to take but instead remains on a very restrained plain. In fact, the story seems to be taking a few rather convenient twists resulting into tame resolutions.

The music by Indian Ocean is a highlight. It remains with you for long, after you’ve exited the theatre. Script-centric casting and the convincing production design; are two more high-points. Richa Chadda plays Devi with dominance, thanks to her natural acting flair. Vicky Kaushal as Deepak is excellent – Watch him blush in those two-three scenes; seems so genuine! Shweta Tripathi and Sanjay Mishra lend fine support. Nikhil Sahni as the child Jhonta is impressive, too.

Masaan won’t disappoint if you’re looking for a true-to-life movie. It’ll be a delight if you dig festival circuit human-dramas. You might, however, just regret a bit that it doesn’t push the envelope far enough to turn itself into a riveting classic.

   Dinkar Sharma

Dinkar Sharma is a Screenwriter. His first feature film Second Marriage Dot Com was released in 2012. He can be contacted via his Facebook profile:. https://www.facebook.com/imdinkarsharma.

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