In one hour fourty eight minutes, he creates a microcosm of India, representing the intelligentsia, media, lawmakers, breakers and keepers, politicians, fanatics, the aam aadmi and more.
Cleverly crafted by writer Shafaat Khan, events unfold in a coastal town where a man is crushed to death under the weight of a giant hoarding of a local politician. As he is about to be buried as per Muslim customs, a Hindu faction objects and claims the body as of their faith. The cops are confounded, but in order to maintain calm, the law is asked to adjudicate. A hilarious courtroom scene encapsulates the dichotomies in India – of nationality, identity and faith.
The local police chief (Vinay Jain) is an impotent spectator at first, and then an unexpected force faced. He is faced with a delicate situation; one that his deputy tells him is a required disturbance that helps maintain longer-term peace.
As political games are played in the bigger arena, the dead man’s widow (Tanvi Azmi), daughter and stepchild suffer emotional trauma, societal judgment and gets caught in a game that is bigger than them.
The other key players are a local businessmen and politician (Satish Kaushik), a newspaper editor and his nemesis – a modern thinking MBA-type, a hearing impaired historian whose books are burnt before being read, who blocks out all sounds by switching off his hearing aid, and two young lovers who depict the innocence and hope of youth.
Humour, wit and satire permeate the film in dollops. Yet the writer and director do not shy away from making direct comments on communalism and community. There is a poignant scene where the mourning women run out of the widow’s house as soon as they hear the daily water supply has been arrived.
Some scenes do feel like they were designed for a stage and not celluloid, not surprising given Khan’s vast experience in theatre. And some of the actors do tend to pitch on the louder side, but these are minor niggles in a film that is intelligent, thoughtful and entertainingly makes a statement.