Sunday, November 22, 2015

मसान (Masaan) (2015)

Director: Neeraj Ghaywan
Writer:    Varun Grover
Cast:       Richa Chadda, Sanjay Mishra, Vicky Kaushal
Language: Hindi

Four lives intersect along the Ganges in Varanasi: a low caste boy hopelessly in love, a daughter ridden with guilt of sexual encounter ending in a tragedy, a hapless father with fading morality, and a spirited child yearning for a family. The first two characters long to escape the moral constructs of this small-town. 

The film begins with a couple engaging in sex in a hotel only to be raided by the Police. The boy commits suicide and the police inspector takes the video of the girl in the arrested state as a tool to extort money from her father, who is a Sanskrit translator with a small shop on the river banks. This is not a surprising thing in most parts of the country where the state, in this case the Police, acts as an extortion racket and the 'family-honor' is valued so highly that people will kill for it. Parallel to this story is the story of a low caste boy who is in love with a richer upper class girl. The girl in the first story want to leave the place to escape from its morality as well as for better economic opportunities. The boy in the second story want to get a good job so that he could escape from the caste system which is much more entrenched in places like these. What the film does best is capturing the small town life and its mentality. It is made in such a way that you won't sense being lectured on the oppressive nature of Indian society. There are no cartoonishly villainous characters and even the police officer who is doing the extortion does it in a matter-of-fact fashion. 

Performances are really good and the only negative I can find is that there is a degree of convolution in the second story-line to add some artificial poignancy to the proceedings. It is exquisitely shot but not in a tourist post-card fashion. The Indian selection for Academy Awards this year, Court, also deals with similar kind of issues but from a larger societal view-point instead of the character driven model of Masaan. Both of them are great films. Masaan premiered at Cannes this year where it won two awards including FIPRESCI Prize in the un certain regard section. The English title of the film is 'Fly Away Solo', which captures the ambition of the two main characters, and the Hindi title of the film means 'Crematorium' as per google. Neeraj Ghaywan, who previously assisted Anurag Kashyap in Gangs of Wasseypur, made his directorial debut with this film and it was indeed some debut.

Rating: 4.5/5