By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Poor narrative pulls down SHABNAM MOUSI.
Extremely poor production values don't entirely take away from the essential theme of a eunuch's fight for dignity in a social order that constantly shuns fringe people.
Ashutosh Rana is outstanding in the title role.
Based on a real-life character, his portrayal of the eunuch is unique in every sense of the word. Bringing us straight into the twilight zone of the nowhere-people Rana creates spaces in the otherwise-stifling narrative where we see the main character with all her defenses down, pouring out her anguish at being forever sidelined, into sequence after sequence showcasing the actor's amazing power to project his character's turmoil and coming-to-terms with her space in life.
The film's narrative format is tragically devoid of aesthetic values. The cinematography, set design and editing are all done in the style of the 1960s. These setbacks in the narrative take away from the central character's powerful motivations.
Unlike Kalpana Lajmi's DARMIYAAN or Mahesh Bhatt's TAMANNA, there are no lyrical passages accentuating the eunuch's unique attempts to take on a bigoted society.
Though the film is based on a real-life character's struggle to enter politics, the wheeling-dealings of politics are exaggerated and crudely portrayed.
The politicians helmed by the hammy Govind Namdeo wear evil sniggers to symbolize the collapse of the social system. In getting too involved with the collapse of the system the narrative caves in and all but finishes off the film's better intentions.
Ashutosh Rana holds up the plot's lingering loopholes. But finally even he cannot stem the tide of abject mediocrity that floods the narrative. In the last half-hour the protagonist's lack of essential heroism is compensated by the introduction of a hired killer (Mukesh Tiwari) who reforms and helps Shabnam win the elections against the evil politicians.
The sensitive issue is mired in filmy compromises, leaving the work looking half-baked and finally negated.
The film's blind spots are made bearable by the central performance and the cameos of eunuchs specially Vijay Raaz as Shabnam's surrogate mother. But the film needn't have focused so single mindedly on being so crass. It just puts all the other considerations into shade.