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Director : Starring :
Kay Kay Menon, Shiney Ahuja, Chitrangda Singh, Ram Kapoor, Saurabh Shukla, Yashpal Sharma, Arif Zakaria
By Subhash K Jha, IANS
Death, says one song in this remarkably dense and evocative film, is akin to love.
It sure seems like death for Vikram (Shiney Ahuja) every time Geeta (Chitrangda Rao) looks at her idol-lover Sidharth (Kay Kay Menon). And death sure feels like a renewal and assertion of life every time Sudhir Mishra makes a new film.
His outstanding understanding of the complex polemics and politics that motivate the mysteries and contradictions of modern Indian society, has given us great pieces of alternative art in the past including the unusual thriller ISS RAAT KI SUBAH NAHIN where the characters ran around in pursuit of exits to a door-less existence.
HAZAARON KHWAISHEIN AISI (HKA) is Mishra's most complex ambitious and politically driven film to date. He minces no words while castigating the Nehruvian "ideal" that modern India adopted, a model for governance that generated a social order that's unjust and degenerate.
Subsuming the murky and incoherent politics of Kolkata, Delhi and the Bhojpur district of Bihar between the decadent decade that falls between 1969 and 1977, HKA takes us on a strange stirring and reverberant journey into the erosion of the collective conscience in modern India.
Nobody cares. And those who seem to care lose their idealism in the welter of tortuous compromises that characterize India's journey into modernism. And yet, if we look back in anger as Sudhir Mishra does so coherently in this film, what do we see? A social order based on the brutal oppression of the socio-economically challenged.
Sahir Ludhianvi wrote the immortal lines 'Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par Woh Kahan Hain' to express the fatal disillusionments of Guru Dutt in PYAASA. HKA is almost a modern-day version of PYAASA, with the protagonist Sidharth's journey from Marxist jargon to Naxal rebellion to cast oppression being mapped out in the narrative with the harsh inevitability of a cyclone that can bring no relief, only damage.
Sure, Siddharth rages on about injustice. And like the prostitute Gulabo in PYAASA he sucks the besotted Geeta into his ideological web. It's interesting to see how in Geeta, the director amalgamates both the Waheeda Rehman and Mala Sinha characters in PYAASA. Like Waheeda, Chitrangda Singh is willing to sacrifice everything and follow her man to the end of the world. Like Mala Sinha she falls into a marriage of compromise and comfort (with the well-meaning alcoholic Richie Rich, played by Ram Kapoor) but soon pulls back and re-focuses her priorities.
But does she get her just rewards for her ideological transference? Sudhir Mishra's pessimistic view of politics and love offers no comfort to the uncompromising. In that sense, HKA reminded me of Hrishikesh Mukherjee'sSATYAKAM where the ideologue ends up dead on a hospital bed. Sudhir Mishra's Siddharth nearly ends up the same way. But is saved in the nick of time by a savage twist of irony when Vikram in a bid to rescue Siddharth from the clutches of uniformed Bihari goondas, gets his identity interchanged with his friend's.
What follows is the most brutal interlude of violence ever witnessed in a political drama where Vikram is almost bludgeoned to dearth by two heartless cops in the green fields of rural Bihar. The dying moments of this disturbing drama shows Vikram, now reduced to a vegetable, resting his head on Geeta's shoulder in a place far away from the politics of the city.
Love in Mishra's brutally unflinching scheme of nightmarish dreams, is a commodity that demands exorbitant compensation. The commodious yet compact screenplay (Sudhir Mishra, Shiv Subramaniam, Ruchi Narain) knits the major political upheavals of the times into a love triangle.
Love and politics intermingle in a copula Tory concept whereby the sweat and heat of one transfers itself into the other domain. There swift cuts (editing Catherine D'Hoir) and the relentlessly probing cinematography (Jacques Bouquin, Aseem Bajaj) suggest a close link between the politics of the state and the politics of the conscience. Overlapping harshly across the narrative the film's quivering underbelly never shows up on screen. The characters are monstrously challenged by their destiny. But the narrative is always ahead and unwavering in its perceptions of the blueprint of social revolution and where cinema slips into the scheme of radical change.
The performances are even, though not outstanding. The leading lady Chitrangda has evidently been selected for her resemblance to Smita Patil whom Sudhir Mishra and the avant-garde filmmakers of the 1980s saw as a champion of political grace. All the three protagonists seem to have understood the politics of Mishra's layered cinema.
But will the audience follow the narrative's strident and unforgiving walk through the Nehru-Indira era?
Mishra makes no bones about his contempt and cynicism for Nehruvian idealism. This film lashes out at the 'Congress' role model of governance almost to the point of denouncing and demolishing all that the architects of modern India dreamt of.
If you've ever thought of why our nation is in such a mess, this is a film that tells you where we could have gone wrong. It offers no solutions. But it makes you sit up and think about the politics of a nation governed by self-serving leaders who have never really cared for the country and have left the nitty-gritty of the country to middlemen and power-brokers.
In one hard-hitting sequence the wheeler-dealer Vikram strikes a multi-crore deal with an aristocrat while the infuriated scion shoots from the palace roof in protest.
This is an image that illustrates the drama of Sudhir Mishra's politics. A lot of what you will see in Hazaar Khwaishein… will seem unreal and bizarre. Don't take that to be an exaggeration. It's the politics we've been gifted by the architects of Indian democracy.