* Dharm – A few short hours ago, we watched this 2007 Hindi film.
And now we’re faced with this incredible dilemma – who do you credit for producing such a brilliant work of art.
Do you hail director Bhavna Talwar for delivering an Oscar-worthy classic in her first feature film.
Do you pay obeisance at the feet of Pankaj Kapur (as do most people in the film) for his extraordinary portrayal of a devout Hindu Brahmin priest Pandit Chaturvedi torn between his duties and his unwitting actions.
Do you think (a la Panditji) it’s all preordained, that the stars were in perfect alignment just to provide us immense pleasure on an otherwise dreary Thursday.
Well, who gives a f**k as to who deserves the most credit.
We’re not the kind to look a gift horse in the mouth and we’ll take our scanty blessings where we find ’em.
Set in the holy city of Benares a.k.a. Varanasi, Dharm centers round an austere Hindu Brahmin priest Panditji.
When a young Brahmin woman abandons her baby boy in the hands of Panditji’s young daughter Vedika (Ananya Tripathi), the family’s life changes in ways that no one can anticipate. The fault lines are laid deep for a great eruption four years later amidst a cataclysm of violence.
Folks, returning to our original question of who deserves the credit, the answer is simple – every single person who has touched this film: Director Bhavna Talwar, Vibha Singh (story and screenplay), Pankaj Kapur, his real-life wife Supriya Pathak who is his reel-life wife here, rival priest Dayashankar Pandey who does poojas for NRIs (in America, no less), the little boy Krish Parekh who plays Karthikeya, or Ananya Tripathi (cast as the young boy’s sister Vedika) et al.
But (as Orwell would perhaps say if he were reviewing this film) while all actors excel in Dharm, some excel more than the others. If you thought Pankaj Kapur was great in Blue Umbrella, he soars far higher in Dharm.
Whether it’s the early scenes in Panditji’s encounter with the untouchable sweeper on the steps near the river, the first time he plays with Karthikeya when his wife Parvati and daughter Vedika are out, when he embarks on the hard Chandrayan Vrat, while ringing the temple bell after getting distracted while bathing or best of all as he performs pooja when the little boy Karthikeya is outside screaming to be let in, Pankaj Kapur’s is a majestic performance. Worthy of the highest accolades.
Watching Panditji (Pankaj Kapur) make that rigorous journey from the traditional Dharm with religion as its centerpiece to his ultimate discovery, amidst much bloodshed, that Manavta hi Dharm (Humanity is religion) is to rejoice in the presence of one of the finest film artistes in India today.
There are quite a few fine lines from Dharm. Here’s one (from Panditji to Dayashankar Pandey-Ji):
Janm se Brahman
Kaam se Vaishya
Wo bhi Dharm ke vyaapaar
It’s one of the many travesties of Incredible India that a mediocre junk like Eklavya was picked as India’s official entry to the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category for the year 2007 ignoring Dharm.
If that’s not a reflection of the rampant adharm in India, what else is.
* I’ve Loved You So Long – Charming French family drama featuring two fine actresses Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein, who play long-separated sisters here.
One of the sisters is just out of jail after serving a lengthy sentence setting the stage for tension, bitterness and, of course, love.
The movie slowly takes us through a journey that Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) makes into the lives of her sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), husband, children and social circle.
Why did Juliette commit that monstrous crime and will she repeat it?
Folks, director Philippe Claudel has delivered a gem of a movie here in I’ve Loved You So Long.
* Ronin – An OK action movie featuring Robert De Niro, Jean Reno et al as ex-military men hired by Natascha McElhone to steal a briefcase.
Perhaps, the fact that we had seen this action movie a few years back lessened our joy.
You like good lines in movies, there’s quite a few in Ronin. You can read ’em here but they are more fun with the movie.
There’s a bunch of nice car chases too for all ye hot-blooded ones.