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Director : Starring :
Divya Dutta, Vineet Kumar
Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Some films mean well but are unable to convey their true intentions to the audience. "Shobha Yatra" could be considered an honourable failure. It deserves special mention in the arc of Indian cinema primarily for going into an area that has never been attempted before.
In its scathing satire on the death of idealism and the premature annihilation of a sense of historicity in a society governed by greed and moral short-sightedness, "Shobha Yatra" gets into a queer and unrecognisable piece of drama-on-screen.
Adapted from a well-known play by Shafaat Khan, "Shobha Yatra" converges on the lives of a group of professionals who masquerade as legendary national leaders.
Among these masters of the charade it's only Divya Dutta as the phoney Jhansi Ki Rani, impregnated and torn by an internal strife, who manages to make an effective statement of her parabolic role.
The rest of the characters cluster into a plummeting pyramid of incoherent symbolism. Director Vijay Ghatge, a disciple of Marathi playwright Vijay Tendulkar and his school of strident socio-political comment, takes the original theatrical material and moulds it into what can at best be termed a stagy piece of subverted cinema.
Every character is emblematic. The only reality they finally succeeded in conveying is that life in contemporary times has hit rock bottom.
In communicating the moral corruption of a bankrupt social order, the film uses deliberate theatrical devices where the audience is forced to watch a group of people 'acting' on two levels, for the camera and for a purpose within the plot.
The double vision fails to serve the cause of cinema beyond the precincts of smothering self-righteousness.
Perched at a place of moral and ideological superiority, the director looks down at our fetid social order. "Shobha Yatra" is Guru Dutt's "Pyaasa" without the latter's delicacy, sensitivity and poetry.
Sermons and satire on contemporary life, when unaccompanied by any semblance of restrain, is akin to an uncapped toothpaste. After a point, the cleansing powers of Vijay Ghatge's polemical outburst get diluted.
The actors do their best. Vineet Kumar as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Denzel Smith as Jawaharlal Nehru, Kishore Kadam as Tilak, Prithvi Sankhala as Mahatma Gandhi are extremely in-character. Their background in theatre helps give the film that special didactic profile which finally thwarts all the noble intentions of the creator.
It's Divya Dutta as Jhansi Ki Rani, carrying around the weight of a country groaning with corruption and strife, who brings a supple gentleness to an otherwise failed attempt to tell a morality tale.
A neglected freedom fighter hobnobbing with an India-fixated American woman, a 'bhai' (underworld gangster) financing a nationalist yatra to facilitate our great leaders, a little orphan tea seller shivering in the night, covered against the chill by the Rani of Jhansi...Characters come and go, creating a sense of ripened caricature that gets plucked before it's plugged to a productive purpose.
Though an interesting effort to take cinema into the world of staged political satire, at the end of the day "Shobha Yatra" is an idealistic journey that no one follows.