Film: The Awakening
Stories of people affected by the Partition tend to centre around the two communal races in question at the time – Hindus and Muslims and ethnically Punjabis. Other minority groups with thick cultural roots on either side of the border lose their importance in history. Producer Koshi Lalvani and Director Dharambir Kumar attempt to bring to the fore the impact of the Partition on Sindhis and to re-awaken a sense of parochial identity amongst its brethren.
The story revolves around the Gidwani family, settled in New York after the Partition, and their only child Sindhu who is fascinated with her heritage and wants to get closer to her culture. She finds out that she does have a grandmother living in India and sets out to meet her while doing her research on the Harappa and Mohenjo Daro civilisations. The rest of the story deals with her efforts to gain her bitter grandmother’s love, find her footing in a strange land, discover her cultural roots and ultimately help in completing her family.
It is a noble attempt to bring the Sindhi culture into limelight for those within the community and for those without. But this attempt remains at best a sincere effort never translating into a warm tale well-told. Amateurish approach to all aspects of film-making fails the film from the beginning, which sadly makes it an instant disappointment with the audience.
The movie begins with a documentary/corporate video voiceover which is actually a video Sindhu is watching. But the tone this introduction sets is as dry as the rest of the proceedings. Long and an interminably stretched screenplay consistently harms the watchability of the film.
Although the flow is smooth and even manages to grab interest and sustain it till the end, innumerable songs break the narrative constantly especially with its Sindhi lyrics which will not be understood universally. The screenplay manages to weave a few emotional clichés and a few subtleties of human emotions but does not manage to pull it off with élan. It lacks the layers and dimensions of a human situation trapped within its own historical and emotional whirlpool.
A film this emotional requires a powerhouse cast with an intensity enough to move the audience. Although the principal cast tries its best to emote and do justice to this oddball film, the efforts are laid waste due to extremely incompetent direction. Debutantes Smita Gondkar and Vishal Sadhwani (can’t find this name) perform sincerely and exude a confidence admirable for new-comers but remain trapped inside a two-dimensional script. Farida Dadi delivers a convincing performance as the estranged and bitter Nani as does Pankaj Berry in his small role.
Technically also the film has nothing much to offer. Apart for the file footage of the Sindh landscape in the beginning there is nothing more of it to see throughout the film except Mumbai as Mumbai and then Mumbai again passing off as New York!
Music is an important part of culture and it forms an important part of the story as well but in The Awakening it could have been used more judiciously for the purpose of telling this particular story. Editing is average and completely overlooks the pace and length of the film, letting it run away with itself time and again. Shabby production values, ineffective sound design and abysmal dubbing add the extra bit of fuel to the fire.
This weekend does not have a lot to offer at the cinema halls and it is definitely wise to save up the cash for next week which boasts of some regular masala and soul curry, a mixture that ‘The Awakening’ tries to serve but fails to.