Friday, June 16, 2006

Love in the time of strife…

It seems inapt to write a review of Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi now, more than a year since it was released and went largely unnoticed by the viewing public. True, there were some rave reviews, by respected critics, but those could not save the movie from its inevitable fate. However, I am publishing this review now because – a) it was an unusual movie and it certainly qualified for the epithet of great cinema, b) this review was written a year back when the movie was released, and it went unpublished since I did not have a blog then.

The movie is similar in a way to Dil Chahta Hai (that cult movie about love, friendship and relationships), in that it also deals with three friends, who complete college, move out and experience things and participate in events which make them mature human beings. Like DCH, HKA is also a voyage of discovery for its three protagonists, and yes, thankfully we are spared romantic songs and sweet nothings.

The movie takes a dispassionate, non-judgmental and at times irreverent look at life from mid sixties to the mid seventies, for its three young protagonists. This was a turbulent period in world history, marked by rebellions against authority, a period when idealism and pragmatism jostled for supremacy and idealism won. This was the period of Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Germaine Greer, the Vietnam War and the feminist movement. In India, it was characterized by the Naxalite warfare against the state machinery and JP’s Jan Andolan. The movie looks at this era through the eyes of its three main characters : Siddharth (Kaykay Menon), Geeta (Chitrangada Singh) and Vikram (Shiny Ahuja) all of who study in a prestigious Delhi institute that looks suspiciously like JNU.

Siddharth is the son of a judge, born with the proverbial golden spoon in his mouth, who turns a rebel to set right society’s iniquities against the poor and the downtrodden. Geeta belongs to a middle class family, but her love for Siddharth draws her into the conflict. Vikram turns a wheeler-dealer, and of the trio, is the only one who could be said to have achieved worldly success.

Siddharth joins the Naxalite movement, and ventures into the interiors of Bihar, ridden by the worst kind of feudalism and caste based discrimination, where an invisible bond binds the oppressor and the oppressed. In a memorable sequence, when a horde of dalits rally outside the zamindar’s house to avenge themselves against the landlord’s son who has committed an atrocity against their women and the landlord has a heart attack caused from the exertion, the protesters forget their new found animosity against the land lord, and make arrangements to have a doctor called to the ailing patriarch’s side. It was, as if some primeval force, bound them to the landlord, whose forefathers had been served by their forefathers since generations past.

Geeta meanwhile marries an IAS officer and settles down for a comfortable, if boring existence as a socialite, where she meets Vikram in a party after several years. One thing leads to another and Geeta decides to leave her husband, and join Siddharth in his rebellion. Vikram has, by now become a prime mover and shaker in the corridors of power, and he frequently deals with a person who bears an uncanny resemblance to Sanjay Gandhi.

The story moves on, like life itself. The characters mature, they metamorphose and they learn from their mistakes. As in real life too, the movie amply demonstrates that a rebellion has to occur from the grassroots level, it cannot be imposed from the top. Besides, when it is a question of survival, idealism goes for a toss.

The director manages to extract brilliant performances from his entire cast. The music is different but apt. All in all, an excellent movie, that deserves several watches.