- Masaan review by NC
Two stories run in close parallel, like railway lines, gradually merging into a single track near the end. For the first story, Ghaywan's scathing attack on traditions and double-standards which continue to blight lives (specifically women's, of course) is fine and affecting. Less successful is the counterpart courtship of Deepak and Shaalu. Lower-caste boy meets upper-caste girl needs more than this to make it original and interesting. Deepak works as a cremator on the banks of the Ganges, and there is superb photography of the pyres to alleviate the seen-it-all-before element. Vicky Kushal and Shweta Tripathi as the young couple give performances of pure Hollywood/Bollywood gush.
Much, much better are Richa Chadha and Sanjay Mishra as daughter and father, caught in the net of police corruption and a way of life which lays the blame for anything and everything squarely on the female.
A minor theme of 'Masaan' is the railway, not only taking people away from a narrow-minded existence to the big city, but also demonstrating that some things are steadily modernising. Computers take the place of manual work. Narrow gauges in the hills are being updated. How long before progress can be seen on the caste system, on laws which make life easier for bent cops, and on officially sanctioned misogyny?
'Masaan' won the Cannes 'certain regard', and for half the film it's not hard to understand why. The ending hints at a message of hope that the next generation can burn those traditions and mindsets in pyres of their own. Let us hope so.
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