When the director is also the writer, it's easier to translate subjects (read characters) and emotions on screen. However, when it is a subject which is close to another person (read writer) and another is giving life to the characters nestled between the pages, things can go awry. It is difficult to get passionate about something, which you have not created.
GOUR HARI DASTAAN is different. Not only has director Anant Mahadevan breathed fire into the principal character and the characters around it, but he has also infused an unhurried approach and still finished off his narration inside two hours. A rare feat in terms of technical brilliance and story-telling craft. It would have been easy for a director to go 'overboard' and lengthen the subject 'beyond a point', which would have defeated the very purpose of highlighting the 'time' (in this case 30 years) it took Gour Hari Das to get what was rightfully his, from a free India.
Everything falls in place for this film. The writing by journalist C P Surendran is crisp and without loopholes. So is the direction by Anant Mahadevan who has a firm grip on the subject right from the word go. Mahadevan uses visuals with telling effect to bring forth the narrative, which goes back and forth from pre-Independence Days till 2007. He begins with a train moving into a Ballaspore tunnel in Orissa with a young Das running alongside the tracks, escaping from someone who seems to be chasing him. Immediately the scene cuts to a Mumbai local entering into VT station and Das (an old man now), getting off and merging into the crowded station and picking up a copy of a tabloid to check if his story has appeared.
More of that later.
Another scene where Mahadevan uses the back-and-forth visuals to a nicety is when Das is sitting with two of the tabloid reporters in a Cafe and goes back in time. His ginger tea scene 'then' and the waiter getting his tea without sugar to his table 'now' merges the narrative to a level of brilliance.
I can go on about such scenes, but I would like to add just this one more where Mahadevan uses visuals and body language to get his point across. Das is questioned by his female colleague at work as to how much pension he expects to receive once he gets the Freedom Fighters Certificate
. A glucose biscuit he has dipped in the tea glass comes out half when he pulls it out, and is about to answer. No words required. A dazzling scene that captures the mood, emotions and unsaid words.
Subtlety is an art that rarely requires over-the-top histrionics and Mahadevan is helped here, with a cast that goes beyond the call of duty. Every actor, it appears, is handpicked for his brief part. Like a diamond polisher who picks up his piece and polishes it with passion before putting it in its case, Mahadevan picks up actors of proven pedigree and gives them their 'dream bits'.
Be it the late Vinay Apte, Bharat Dhabolkar, Vikram Gokhale, Vipin Sharma, Siddharth Jadhav, Mohan Kapoor, Neha Pendse, Rajit Kapoor, Saurab Shukla, Murli Sharma, Ganesh Yadav or the many other characters that make GOUR HARI DASTAAN the movie that it is... every one of them delivers a gem of a performance.
Gour Hari Das, originally from Orissa, now living in Reay Road before moving to Dahisar in Mumbai, finds the need one day to prove that he fought for the freedom of his country when his son is unable to secure college admission as there is no certificate to prove this.
He begins his quest to ensure that he gets the recognition for his part of the 'freedom struggle'. His journey takes him to the doors of government offices and officials with his file increasing in size every single day. His son and even his neighbours begin to doubt his 'truth' which makes him all the more purposeful in his fight for justice.
He knocks on the doors of various publications and he finds a willing ear in journalist Rajiv Singhal (Ranvir Shorey) and his colleague Anita (Tannishtha Chatterjee), even though their editor would prefer 'Gay rights' to adorn his front pages, as it is a young newspaper.
But when the young take up his cause after a hard-fought crusade fought with passion, sans bitterness, even the government has to sit up and take notice.
But this took 30 long years. In the end, freedom fighter Das very politely tells the Chief Minister: ''I feel the British did a lot of good, at least we knew who the enemy was.''
In the end, he merges with the crowd on the streets, Certificate in hand, where placards read, ''FREE INDIA'', ''DOWN WITH CORRUPTION.''
A thought-provoking, soul-searching movie, which highlights the government apathy in a seriously funny manner.
In the brilliance of the narration, writing, casting and visual usage, I almost forgot to mention the performances of the Vinay Pathak as Das and Ranvir Shorey as the journalist. Pathak gets into 'DASVIDANIYA
zone', an award winning performance. Ranvir, Tannishtha and Konkona Sen Sharma all provide the solid support that makes the movie what it is.
Rating this movie is beyond my call... but for the record it is 5 stars which in a way limits the brilliance of this movie.
GOUR HARI DASTAAN, The Freedom Files is a movie worth going miles to see.