Filmmaking is a creatively fictitious process and most of the filmmakers in today’s time try doing different stuff whenever they go on board. Keeping the competition in mind, each one of them aspires to do something completely disparate, as sustaining in the industry is extremely burdensome. But here comes Varun Grover (The multifaceted stand-up-comic, writer and lyricist) along with a highly experienced storyteller who’s actually making his debut with ‘Masaan.’
Highly experienced even though it’s his debut film? Exactly!
Assisting someone like Anurag Kashyap prepares you for something big and after watching ‘Masaan,’ all I can say is that only a full bloomed storyteller, someone who has seen life closely could have given this beautiful story a path and no one could have done it as well as Mr. Neeraj Ghaywan, the director of the film.
The most appreciable thing I’d say would be, staying away from the *trying to do something unusual* zone and still making a film that’s full of conflicts, is pitiful, heartwarming and hopeful in the end, however Grover and Ghaywan ensured that its treatment was humane, by keeping it as real as possible. They never hit a false note by overdramatising the tussles, over-intensifying the griefs or over romanticising the initial stages of a relationship.
Set in present day Benaras, ‘Masaan,’ which also means ‘Shamshaan’ or ‘Crematorium’ develops by the banks of the Ganga where cremations are a part of people’s daily lives. We follow two different people-Devi (Richa Chaddha) and Deepak (Vicky Kaushal) and their different yet struggle-some journeys that coincide after a point.
The film begins with Devi’s dilemma, as she checks into an unsavoury hotel room along with her partner to make love but gets heckled by the sudden intervention of the cops. The senior officer records a confession tape of Devi and makes her look like a prostitute, further extorting money from her father Vidyadhar Pathak (Sanjay Mishra) to cover up and bury the entire scandal, but obviously Pathak, a retired Sanskrit teacher who now runs a small shop near the ghats and does some translation work finds himself stuck and pressurised by the evil policeman’s threats.
In the other story, we follow Deepak, an untouchable from the Dom caste who falls in love with the beautiful and chirpy Shaalu, who belonged to the upper caste. Even though Deepak’s an upcoming engineer and would soon get away from his ancestry, he feels marginalised, as he knows he’s forced to work on the ghats and burn funeral pyres.
Though their newfound relationship is pleasing to the eyes, heartwarmingly innocent and awkward at times, Deepak internally remains baffled because in the end, he knows that his caste would certainly create a problem. But Shaalu, willing to even elope with Deepak asks him to get a job, not worrying about the stereotypes around and that gives him hope, hope of moving out of the life he was trapped in. What followed next would devastate you as a viewer but that’s how his quandary began.
Varun Grover’s the actual hero of ‘Masaan’ for me, as his subtlety as a writer is something anybody would envy because this film is actually high on authenticity and realism. The moments between Deepak and Shaalu are so beautifully written that even if you would find their language a little different, you would certainly connect with the emotions as that’s how first time lovers behave or talk, especially in the initial stages. But all these moments would’ve fallen flat if Neeraj Ghaywan wouldn’t have donned the director’s hat. Avinash Arun’s powerful and picturesque camerawork, the out of the world performances, Indian Ocean’s riveting music and Grover’s exemplary lyrics put together and complete this cinematic journey.
‘Tu Kisi Rail Si’ is my favourite and Swanand Kirkire’s voice does magic. Not to forget, the way Ghaywan’s used balloons as an expression of love, the montage of Deepak and Shaalu’s confession and acceptance, it’s highly inspiring for young filmmakers like me, and Avinash Arun’s captured the song exquisitely.
When you’re a passenger of a cinematic ride, you know all the actors involved in the film are going to be flawless and top-notch. Each one of them, from the supporting cast to the protagonists, they’re all equally brilliant and terrific.
Richa Chaddha, Sanjay Mishra, Shweta Tripathi, Pankaj Tripathi and the young Nikhil Sahni as Jhonta, they were all breathtaking but Vicky Kaushal, the debutant who played Deepak stayed with me long after the film was over.
He really has a long way to go and an impeccable filmography would soon follow.
Caste and gender inequalities, self-condemnation, sexual repression, prejudices, life and death.
‘Masaan’ is multilayered and it would definitely leave you spellbound, after all there actually is life after death, and there is hope after an end.