Novel & Brilliant In Parts
By MovieTalkies.com, 07 December 2007
Dus Kahaniyaan is a very novel attempt by producer-director Sanjay Gupta, ten stories, six directors and an ensemble of actors. The idea is great and it turns out be an enjoyable experience as well. Even though all ten stories are not outstanding, all of them are absorbing, what with their taut narrative, brilliant acting and the mandatory twist in the tale.
The directors whose stories truly stand out are definitely Gupta himself, Meghna Gulzar and debutant director, Rohit Roy.
The short story is an art in itself and not all good novelists are necessarily good short story writers as well, as is evident in the world of literature. That probably holds good for cinema as well, with the director having to convey all that he wants in the most minimalistic way possible. All the directors involved in Dus Kahaniyaan – Meghna, Rohit, Gupta, Hansal Mehta, Jasmeet Dhodi and Apoorva Lakhia, have succeeded in varying degrees in doing that. But what makes a few of the stories stand out is probably the strength and power of the story being narrated on screen.
Looking at Dus Kahaniyaan from that perspective, probably the one story that truly stands out is the one directed by actor Rohit Roy. It goes without saying that he is greatly aided by the appearance of two of Hindi cinema's, or let's say, two of Indian cinema's best actors, Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi. The Rice Plate, which is Rohit's story stands out for the sensitive manner in which the director has handled the theme of prejudices. There are no major events that happen in the story, in fact it is the stuff of everyday life and living; living with deep rooted prejudices which unconsciously start colouring the way we look at people. Shabana is brilliant as the deeply prejudiced Tamil Brahmin, who, at the end of the story, realizes the extent to which her prejudices have coloured her prespective.
The story has a light, slightly comic element to it as it details the journey of this middle-aged, hassled woman, who is just embarking on a journey to meet her granddaughter. She has a problem with North Indians and one with Muslims as well. Her prejudices keeping facing and challenging her to respond differently. She misses her train and realises that she has left behind her purse. She manages to scrounge up Rs 16 in loose change and buys herself a rice plate at the local Uddipi restaurant. Due to an oversight on her own part, she sits on the wrong table and accuses the old gentleman sitting there of stealing her plate of rice. In her righteous anger, she even grabs his half-eaten plate and polishes off the food. But her horror on realizing that he is belongs to a different religion sends her into a shock; the bigger shock is that she ate from the same plate as him. For a caste conscious, religious conscious and region conscious woman as her, it is almost devastating. But she is humbled by her experience as she realizes her folly and something melts inside her and changes forever.
The story selection is impeccable. Rohit, as director, has managed to weave together a taut and rich narrative. He has dealt with the theme in a most subtle and understated fashion, which makes the end all the more powerful. His actors are brilliant. Shabana gets a role which she manages to sink her teeth into and conveys so much with her walk, her dialogue and her gestures. She is every inch a Tamil mami. Naseer, on the contrary, has little to say and do but his presence itself says a lot.
The other story which has been dealt with great mastery is Purnamaas, directed by Meghna Gulzar. Again a very simple, yet complex story, told with great dexterity by the director, it sees some great performances by Amrita Singh and Minissha Lamba. A story about a mother and a daughter, Puranmaas deals with how a daughter pays dearly with life to saved her mother from disgrace. Amrita Singh plays the mother, whose daughter, played by Minissha, is all set to get, married. Knowing fully well, that her mother is trapped in a loveless marriage, the daughter tries to make her mother feel good and insists on dressing her up in her own dupatta and bangles. Every full moon night, the mother secretly goes out to the fields to meet her lover. She does the same, this time as well, not forseeing the drastic consequences as she is spotted on the way back and her dupatta is recognized by the villagers. Angry villagers storm her house and accuse her daughter of having a secret lover. The marriage is called off as the stunned mother is unable to say anything to defend her daughter's honour and lacks the courage to confess the truth. The daughter realizes what her mother has done and realizes as well that she is trapped. Unable to accept the accusations on one hand, and unable to protect her mother, she does the next best thing and commits suicide by jumping into the well.
Meghna brings out the oppressive nature of the North Indian patriachial system which has no space for its women to voice their feelings. An extremely short story, the director manages to bring out the daughter's anguish at being unable to clear her name, because to do so would mean to drag her mother down. Her realisation of the truth, her conflict, helplessness, and then her final desperate measure to save her mother and herself from dishonour, is brilliantly brought out with great brevity. The two actresses do a superb job as well.
The other story which deserves mentioning is Gubbare, directed by Gupta. Starring Rohit Roy and Nana Patekar, it is a very touching tale of love. This short story manages to touch on the subject of the ephemeral nature of life, love and also of loss and suffering. The story probably derives its name from the balloons that the character played by Nana Patekar, takes to his wife's grave every day. This one is brilliant, and not just because of Nana's presence, but also for the manner in which the director has managed to weave in so many strands of life and present them in the most simple and yet most poignant manner. Gubbare is a lot like life itself, short and brief and yet so rich. Gupta's selection of story is good and so is the manner in which he manages to keep the interest going. He never allows the mood to dip into melancholy but keeps it bittersweet. As always, Nana is riveting to watch.
Lovedale, Sex On The Beach, High On The Highway are perhaps the weakest stories of the lot. Matrimony, which stars Mandira Bedi, Arbaaz Khan and Sudhanshu Pandey, is a witty, urbane take on matrimony directed by Gupta. Even Strangers in the Night, is an interesting story. The irony behind Rise & Fall, which sees the appearance of Sanjay Dutt and Suniel Shetty, is well bought out in the film. Zahir, which stars Manoj Bajpai and Dia Mirza is also interesting. While the entire package of ten is rivetting in itself, not all strike an emotional chord as the Rice Plate, Puranmaas and Gubbare do. These three have a moving narrative, great performances and masterly direction.
One realizes that the attempt is to bring different kinds of stories together. But not all of the stories have that which makes good cinema, the twist in the tale notwithstanding. But this is an interesting attempt by Gupta and his production house to infuse an element of novelty into mainstream Hindi cinema.