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 Banaras - A Mystic Love Story
Director :
Music :
Lyrics :
Starring :
 Pankuj Parashar
 Himesh Reshammiya
 Urmila Matondkar, Ashmit Patel, Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia, Raj Babar

By Sameer Wadekar, Bollywood Trade News Network Send to Friend

Download Banaras WallpapersThe credits roll and the movie opens with a brief shot of the river Ganga and its famous ambience and you can't help saying "What a stunning photography!" In a movie set in a specific location with the story spun around it you expect that place to be a part of the movie, or another character in the movie, so to speak. And cinematographer Neerav Shah has done a spectacular job! He has captured the atmosphere so beautifully and has maintained the image throughout the film; he never lets it go off. It's a visual treat actually!

Coming onto the movie. Some subjects have the potential to be really different, really memorable. This is one of those sagacious topics and it conceals within it a good amount of essence. This could easily have been the 'as old as the hills', 'poor boy-rich girl romance' but director Pankuj Parashar refrains it from being one very cleverly. This time, its 'lower caste boy-upper caste girl camaraderie' and Parashar sets the story against a different backdrop- spirituality. But there's a problem here, instead of becoming a backdrop the milieu of spirituality has become the core substance of the film. Ideally it should have run parallel to the narrative. As a result the movie has become a little stiff.

Download Banaras WallpapersThe story goes like this. Shwetambari is the daughter of wealthy Brahmin parents and studies Physics at the local University. She falls in love with a talented musician Soham who belongs to a lower caste. The news about their relationship triggers off the unrest and Soham pays the price for it. He is murdered and Shwetambari is devastated. She quits Banaras and is now a saintly woman, respected by one and all. After a long time, she comes back to her native city to meet her father, who is now on a deathbed.

First, the positive things. The subject is unusual and the director has made a commendable effort without any doubt. This could be Parashar's finest film by far. He seems to have taken care that this does not become an 'art-house' cinema. He has presented this with more style and in doing so stays true to his convictions.

Download Banaras WallpapersActing is first-rate. Urmila (Shwetambari) dazzles one more time with a thoroughly sincere performance. Good to see that this talented actress hasn't restricted herself to doing the run-of-the-mill mundane roles. Naseer needs no introduction! In this movie he is the angel, a Godly figure! His presence bears no direct connection to the story but is vital in context of the movie. He is the preacher and the conscience of the hero Soham (Ashmit Patel). And hence has been provided the lengthy dialogues which he speaks softly (in shhudh Hindi!).

View Banaras Movie StillsBut the real revelation is Dimple. It's really fantastic to see this languishing actress back in form. I anticipated some exciting stuff again between Naseer and Dimple again after BEING CYRUS, but sadly they don't share the screen here. But for Dimple she is brilliant and stirs up a superbly restrained act. She gets a strong support from the equally talented Raj Babbar who plays his role with assurance.

As far as Ashmit Patel is concerned he has got a lot to learn. But he stands in and delivers what the director expects of him. The rest of the cast including Akash Khurana (pshychiatrist), Javed Khan and Arif Zakeria (the cop) lend able support.

And now the drawbacks. The real hassle comes in form of the script. The story by L C Singh (also the producer) is fine if not unique but the screenplay he has written along with Javed Siddiqui is rigid at least in the first half. The movie therefore becomes incredibly slow and in some sequences even a little boring. The dialogues are not spontaneous but inflexible; the stuff they talk in theater. I mean it could work for a play but not for a movie. The chemistry between Shwetambari and Soham lacks the spark and in no way looks appealing. Even the interaction between Shwetambari and her parents are forced and sometimes goes very methodical. Shweta tells her mother 'Soham ek vyakti nahin, ek anubhuti hai,' now c'mon which girl would talk so religiously about her boyfriend (even if it is Banaras!).

Download Banaras WallpapersThe character sketch of Soham is too not interesting. Boy, he looks like someone straight out of a mythological serial! And with those long hairs he looks lifted from a Chinese martial arts movie! Is it compulsory for a musician to have long hairs, (this appears more in cases where he is a classical musician). And every time his presence is accompanied by a resonating chant 'Sohammmm... Sohammmmmmm!' (What the hell!).

But the movie picks up soon after Soham's death. Some of the scenes for example, where the cop tells Shwetambari about Soham's death, then Shwetambari coming back to meet her ailing father, the interface between Shweta and her mother are brilliant and make a bang!

The other let down is the film's music. Himesh Reshammiya is average here. The music does not keep lingering in your minds. Himesh had a very good chance to prove his versatility but he has disappointed. Plus we could have done without that Holi song.

But nothing dwarfs the efforts of the filmmakers. It's not easy to make a film on such a complicated subject and to some extent they are successful. It's heartening that Pankuj Parashar has returned with an imposing film but unfortunately couldn't live up to the mark. The movie had all the ingredients of being a classic but has relegated to being a decent flick. But nonetheless a praiseworthy attempt, a fine piece of crafty filmmaking, worth taking a look!

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More about Banaras - A Mystic Love Story
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- BANARAS Press Meet at Delhi Picture Gallery