A Flawed Journey
By MovieTalkies.com, 04 May 2007
Goutam Ghosh's Yatra is a film which gets lost midway in too many abstractions. It has a promising start but a little into the film, you realize that this is a journey that is really headed nowhere.
The problem with Yatra lies with the character of the protagonist, Dasrath Joglekar (Nana Patekar), an award-winning novelist. In the film, he is portrayed as this acerbic, perpetually depressed and drunk man, with little concern for his loving family, consisting of a wife (Deepti Naval), old mother and two children. He is a character constantly at odds with the materialistic world that he lives and inhabits. He rails against it but still accepts it. Somehow the director expects us to look at the world through the eyes of Dasrath, and you can't because it is so jaundiced.
The story of the film begins with Dasrath Joglekar signing autographs in a bookstore in Hyderabad. His latest novel, Janaza, has just been released and he is nominated for an award. The irony is that the award is given by a steel giant. The organizers invite him to Delhi for the award function and he travels by train to his destination. On the journey, he meets a young filmmaker Mohan (Nakul Vaid) who is fascinated by his novel Janaza and wants to make a film on it. During the course of the journey, the novelist reveals that certain parts of Janaza are 'autobiographical,' specially the Laajwanti episode. The protagonist Satish (a village schoolmaster) gives shelter to the courtesan Laajwanti (Rekha). The film moves effortlessly between fact and fiction as the story of Laajwanti and Satish is played out on one side and the life of Dasrath on the other.
Fact and fiction meet when Dasrath, on his way back from Delhi, heads straight for Mehdi Galli in Hyderabad, where Laajwanti dwells. Times have changed and Laajwanti has become Liza to cope with the times. An exponent of the traditional mujra, she now dances to popular remixes to wow her clientele. Laajwanti promises him one last mujra. On the other side of town, his family is frantic as they have no clue where he could be. But things go wrong as Dasrath suddenly dies and Laajwanti gets rid of his dead body by hiding it in her closet and sends it packing to an unknown destination. Dasrath's wife lands up at Laajwanti's residence just then and the film ends, kind of abruptly.
The second problem with the film is that Ghosh tries to deal with too many themes at the same time and ends up becoming quite obscure. The title and theme of Dasrath's new novel is Bazaar, or the market. Through the title of the novel and through the sequences in which Dasrath sees his son hounded by TV cameras after being bruised badly, or the scene where his daughter storms out of a BPO job after ticking off her senior, all convey the director's sense of dismay at the growing consumerism of our age. The irony is that even Dasrath is a part of the system. Everybody is a part of the 'market'. All fine with the theme, but Ghosh seems to get lost somewhere and film verges on the self-indulgent.
Rekha has done the role of the courtesan in innumerable films and the crowning glory of her career was Umrao Jaan. But that was so many years ago. She is a consummate actress. One has mixed feelings as one watches her essays this role. She gets all the actions right, and yet there is no soul in her performances, barring a sequence or two. Nana Patekar plays a muted version of his usual self. It is Deepti Naval who puts in a very natural and spirited performance as Dasrath's wife.
The music of the film, like everything else in, belongs almost to a different era. Composed by Khayyam, there are some lovely thumris sung by Shubhra Guha.
Ghosh, an ace cinematographer himself, is the director, editor, story writer, screenplay writer and the cinematographer as well for this film. The film is shot beautifully. The sequences of Hyderabad specially, are to die for. Equally evocative is the barren landscape, where Satish first meets Laajwanti, after her gangrape. But Ghosh disappoints with the final product as Yatra lacks cohesion and a sense of direction. It is, headed nowhere. More the pity.