3 December 2008

Film Review - Dasvidaniya

The Joker Returns



WITH DASVIDANIYA, THE Russian word for goodbye (or ‘till we meet again’) makes its second appearance in Hindi cinema — this time in a starring role. Still remembered for its significant bit role in Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker, the use of the word in Shashant Shah’s film nudges the viewer gently towards a host of associations — the Indo-Russian connection as cemented by Hindi films, the clown who makes people laugh while himself desperately unhappy.

Vinay Pathak’s Amar Kaul, a 37-year-old accounts manager with a ridiculous katori-haircut, who lives with his senile, TV-obsessed mother (the wonderful Sarita Joshi), has never had a love life, and mutely suffers the daily indignities inflicted by his gross and gluttonous boss (Saurabh Shukla), is already a version of the sad joker. When it turns out that his ulcer is actually an advanced stomach cancer, the film threatens to keel over into full-blown weepie territory. But quietly well-executed performances and a charmingly straightforward script keep the film in a suitably low key.

Amar (whose very name provides the possibility of pathos) does have a moment of revelation, but he doesn’t become a new person overnight. He just replaces his dreary things-to-do list with a ‘things-to-do (before I die)’ list, substituting ‘repair geyser’ with ‘learn guitar’. His plodding but determined pursuit of these everyman desires — buying a shiny red car, travelling abroad, telling his childhood crush he loves her — make up the rest of the film. There’s nothing earthshattering or unpredictable about these episodes, but moving moments abound. Noteworthy are a dumb charades sequence with Neha Dhupia (again drawing on the joker/mime association) and the car-buying episode (Purbi Joshi’s lovely as the salesperson). And, instead of Raj Kapoor’s teary romance with a Russian ballerina, we get a short-but-sweet encounter between Indian tourist and Russian hooker, ironically — but perfectly — set to “Pal bhar ke liye koi hamein pyar kar le”.

Perhaps the cinematic references are overdone a little, what with Pathak asking his guitar teacher to teach him the title song from Kal Ho Na Ho, and his estranged brother (Gaurav Gera) being introduced with a parody of the Mere paas Maa hai dialogue. The conversations-with-self routine grates, with our endearingly boring protagonist sharing screen space with a winking, backslapping, long-haired version of himself. But to stress these things is to deny an honest film its due.

Published in Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 47, Dated Nov 29, 2008

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