Sunday, August 02, 2015

Neeraj Ghaywan-directed Masaan, a masterpiece that beautifully blends sadness and hope

Neeraj Ghaywan,we learn was assistant director to Anurag Kahsyap in Gangs of Wasseypur and second unit director in Kashyap's Ugly. Now he emerges as a director. The story is by Vinod Grover. These are new people who seem to be extremely talented and extremely bold in what they want to do in cinema.
Masaan (Urdu for cremation ground or shamshaan and also refers to ghosts of hovering in the place of dead and death) portrays life of the protagonists who are connected with the rituals of death. It could have been a surreal, bleak and even a wee bit macabre. But what the film celebrates is life in terms of love and sex. If it had focused merely on death, love and sex, it could have been a credible movie as well. But Ghaywan and Grover life that exists in Varanasi in places where death is both ritual and a routine.
The movie ca be aptly described in the words of lyricist Bharat Vyas'words, "jab mrityu ne jeevan ko ghera ho (When death encircled life)".
The other great achievement of Ghaywan and Grover is that they use the social aspects -- read caste -- aspects of Hindu society in this part of Varanasi/Benaras, and combine it with the modern aspects of life -- education, computer centre, colleges. mobile phones. The director and the write refuse to make any loud, rhetorical statements about caste or rituals, about the perversity of the police system. But all these elements are there, and they shape the life and destiny of the main characters.

The greatest achievement of the movie is the tender love story of the Domb boy and the Gupta girl, done with memorable and wistful touches.Sanjay Mishra and Shweta Tripathi who play the romantic pair, have portrayed the roles of the lovers with gentle charm. It is gentleness, understated in other words, that makes the movie nearly lyrical. Death intervenes in unexpected ways, but it is life and hope that prevails.

The river in Varanasi and Allahabad is part of the narrative of the story. It is part of the emotional landscape, when the young lovers take a boat ride in Varanasi, and when the two main protagonists take a boat ride on the Sangam in Allahabad. The film's world is confined to Varanasi and Allahabad, and the characters are happy with it because it is their universe.

What makes movies great is this sense of place as well as time. Ghaywan has etched the place in the film without making it too obvious.

It is a movie which tells a mature story. Cinematography and music could have made it a masterpiece but it shows clear hints of being one through the sheer strength of its honest depiction of people and the place.

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