How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

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Location: India

Monday, May 02, 2005

'Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi...'

I watched this film this weekend, spurred by a glowing review in Tehelka. Directed by Sudhir Mishra, it traces the lives of three young people - two men and a woman - through the period of the late 1960's to mid-1970's. In the end, it is a love triangle, but treated very differently. It can definitely not be categorized as mainstream cinema.

I found the film 'bad in parts', as one of my friends called it. That is, I really liked the film overall, but there were certain things that I didn't like. The story goes like this: Vikram (Shiney Ahuja), Siddharth (Kay Kay Menon) and Geetha (Chitrangada Singh) study in the same college. Vikram belongs to a rich family and becomes a typical businessman of the time in Delhi, with numerous political contacts. His father, though, is a staunch Gandhian Congress politician. Siddharth and Geetha belong to middle-class families, Siddharth being the son of a judge. Both are actively involved in the social anti-establishment movement of the time, which had its roots in Naxalbari. The two are also in love with each other, while Vikram is in love with Geetha. After numerous scenes of rioting and escaping the clutches of the police in Delhi, the era abruptly changes from 1969 to 1975. Siddharth goes off to Bhagalpur in Bihar and we see the caste issues and violence over there, while Geetha doesn't accompany him because of familial pressure. A few years later, Vikram and Geetha meet accidentally in a party, where Vikram finds that Geetha has married Arun, a junior bureaucrat in the Finance Ministry, who is 'getting there'. But then again, Vikram accidentally stumbles upon the fact that Geetha still visits Bihar and meets up with Siddharth.

The upshot of all this is that personal and larger social contexts intermingle throughout the film. Eventually, there comes a stage when Vikram has to go off to Bihar to rescue Siddharth and he himself gets beaten badly by the police, and loses his mental balance. We come to an end shortly thereafter, when Siddharth leaves Bihar and goes off to study medicine in London, while Geetha stays in Bihar, with Vikram also there.

The three protagonists play their roles very well. I was most impressed with Shiney Ahuja, who played the savvy Delhi businessman to perfection. Chitrangada Singh (wife of golfer Jyoti Randhawa) has been hailed as the 'next Smita Patil' by people like Ketan Mehta and Shekhar Kapur, and there is a slight resemblance to the late great actress as well. She speaks clipped English (as she is a UK-returned girl in the film), and plays the emotional scenes pretty well. She does have a future in serious cinema. Kay Kay is also good as the social activist, although his English seems artificial.

Sudhir Mishra has done a very good job of directing the film, trying to capture the revolutionary mood of the youth, the flower power influence coming in, the Emergency, and the despair of people torn by casteist violence in Bihar. Diverse characters fill the film - two politicians resembling Sanjay Gandhi and Arun Nehru, brutal policemen in Bihar, an oily socialist political leader changing skins, urban youth, etc. Some of the dialogues are really well-written (as when the Sanjay Gandhi character says: 'Do you think we are the kind of people who will not be here a few years from now?'; and when, hearing a social activist's speech, one villager asks another: 'ye Hitler kauN hai?' and the other replies: 'mhaare gaanv men to naa hai'). One thing that is often used in films set in particular periods is to use the film songs of that period in the background. Here too, we listen as people accompany Mukesh in singing 'vo subah kabhii to aayegii' and as Talat sings 'ae mere dil kahiin aur chal' in the background.

Now about the bad parts. Firstly, the film name is misspelt. 'Khwaishen' should have been 'Khwahishen' (the 'h' is not silent). I think about 75% of the dialogues are in English, which sometimes sounds too artificial. And the language used is more 90's and 00's than 70's. If there is only one theme on which the film is based, that theme is not very clear. One experiences jerks and some lack of coherence in the film's progress. But on the whole, the film easily deserves a viewing, simply because such films are so rare nowadays.

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