Film Review: Strangers


Film: Strangers

Presenter: Sahara One Motion Pictures

Production House: Indorama Films

Producer: Uday Tiwari

Director: Aanand L. Rai

Cast: Jimmy Sheirgill, Kay Kay Menon, Nandana Sen, & Sonali Kulkarni In A Special Appearance

Rating: 5/10

Twist-in-the-tale plot, exploration of defunct relationships and some greed to be different. Go without expectations and you won’t be disappointed.

A story-backed film with strong characters, meaningful motivations and a resilient plot always makes for a captivating watch. To these add a bit of pseudo-intellectualism, some fancy non-linear cuttings and a bit of indulgence and you have Aanand L.Rai’s ‘Strangers’.

‘Strangers’ is a story of two couples and the devaluation of their marriage. What happens when they meet and how it changes their lives forever forms the part-philosophical, part-suspense, part-realistic, part-dramatic film. It revolves around the central theme of dysfunctional marriage and resultant emotional trauma. It brings into its purview strains of adultery, murder, mystery, love, faith, commitment, revenge etc and makes it an interesting pot-pourri.

The film is a tense thriller that rides on the assumption that every character has a story to tell or hide. The secrets or stories as it were, are tantalisingly revealed keeping the attention hooked right till the end. It is to the film’s credit that the revelations keep up the interest and in themselves generate intrigue in the events to come. The writing is competent and plays the various threads of romance, suspense and drama afloat.

The film is sensitive and mature in handling the romance and subsequent marital problems. It adequately evokes the emotional connect of lovers along with claustrophobia and frustration of partners caught on the wrong side of marriage. There are places where slow becomes a drag and the depression annoys but due to the parallel track of suspense, the attention doesn’t slip. Aanand L. Rai capably steers the film in the right direction by keeping a tight balance between romance and suspense.

The film is complemented by a well-played male cast comprising of Jimmy Sheirgill and Kay Kay Menon who play the frisky, unstable Rahul and the sauve but staid Rai respectively. Jimmy plays the disillusioned, egotistical, failed writer and husband with the same flair that he brings to tender roles. Kay Kay is brilliant yet again bringing alive various shades and levels of a character in his nuanced, well-timed performance. He elevates his character above all definitions of real, unreal, good, bad, ugly and that is an actor’s trophy. Nandana Sen looks pretty but is extremely affected in romantic scenes and below par in emotional ones. A certain level of depth is missing in her portrayal of a wronged, disappointed wife who finds love outside her marriage. Sonali Kulkarni has precious little to do but she displays a keen balance in executing the role of a slightly deranged wife holding onto the ghosts of the past.

The film moves along in a non-liner fashion with the past and present sequences juxtaposed in a seemingly unconnected manner. The underlying layer of connection notwithstanding, this treatment alienates the regular audience from the experience of the story and builds a separate ambience, world of the film. Audiences of art-house or experimental cinema may be familiar with such off-beat techniques but the average movie-goer finds it a bit jarring and ineffective unless simplified. A distinct example of this is Gulzar’s Maachis where past and present continuously move in and out of each other but without disturbing the sensibilities of the audience. The ambience that this unnatural juxtaposition creates is the biggest demerit of the film because it reflects as an exercise in indulgence rather than creative brilliance.

Technically, the film uses its medium wisely. The film is not visually enchanting and except for a few soft focus shots is quite adeptly shot, in its framing and lighting. Editing, which is the key to this film mostly manages to maintain the tension of the plot but it is not as slick as it could have been given the raw material. This works as a definite drawback for the film.

The film is a sort of half-satisfying exercise because of its attempt at exceeding itself. In trying to institute witty repartees and contemporariness it veers towards pseudo-intellectualism. If twist-in-the-tale kind of spinners attract you and you are willing to forgive some over-weaning showing off of grey matter then Strangers could be a choice.