Producer: Sheetal Vinod Talwar
Director: Bhavna Talwar
Cast: Pankaj Kapur, Supriya Pathak Kapur, Hrishita Bhatt, K K Raina, Dayashanker Pandey
As a nation, we have been plagued by the word ‘convenience,’ which has inturn become the root of our very existence. We pick from religion what suits us the most and interpret it in ways based on our knowledge of convenience. Director Bhavna Talwar understands this well and with Dharm, tells a known tale in a way it’s been never told before.
The film tells the story of Pandit Ram Narayan Chaturvedi (Pankaj Kapur), a Hindu Brahmin ‘maha pujari,’ for whom the book bound Hindu religion supersedes everything else that surrounds him. He follows and preaches the societal practice of casteism, proclaiming that he is a Brahmin, the superior amongst human castes.
Life follows this self prescribed cycle until Kartikayn, enters his home, thrust into his daughter’s hands by an unknown woman. The Pandit – a hard hearted and almost fanatical man – tries his best to keep away from the child but it doesn’t take too long for him to melt. As time flies by, communal tension in and around the city breaks out into a full fledged revolt. The convenience of religious words has been adapted to suit this rebellion. What follows is deciphering the true meaning of Dharm and what it means to each.
As soon as the film begins, what catches the eye instantly is the crispness on screen. Each frame and scene is crystal clear and detailed. The movie provides a strong hook and leaves you wanting to know how it would all end.
The screenplay in itself is tight and there is no room left for errors. Though the topic of communal violence has been driven up the wall a million times over on celluloid, debutant director Talwar with her sensitivity and objectivity captures the essence of the topic. Kudos to her!
Her knowledge of space and sound is evident. Minor details like varying sounds with distance, background noises and placement of characters in each frame is commendable. Even the construction of each frame well done and is aesthetically brilliant. The colours in each scene seem alive, vibrant and rich. This leads us to cinematography, which is first rate. The use of music as a scene enhancement tool is noteworthy as well.
The most fascinating part of the entire film is the constant montages that paste a smile on your face. The editor has done a good job. Though classy through the entire film, however a few scenes seem to be have been cut in urgency.
In a class of top honor actors, Pankaj Kapur puts up a brave and stalwart performance. His body language and delivery is incomparable. Hrishita Bhatt, who has a few minutes of on-screen time, shines well. K K Raina and Dayashanker Pandey essay their roles remarkably. The children in the film are adorable. Surprisingly the disappointment comes from Supriya Pathak, whose character in a way is the instigator for the change that comes along. While in certain scenes she is OK, it is through the most part of the film where she does not spark magic.
Dharm flows like verses from a beautiful poem and should not be missed.