Written by Manisha Lakhe on August 3, 2018
How Patriotic Is Your Beard?
How do you prove that you are patriotic? A Muslim patriarch
in Benaras battles to answer this question when his nephew
has been shot dead as a terrorist and his brother has died
following the legal and social troubles the family faces as a
result. Will his Hindu daughter in law help him get justice?
Or does religious fanaticism sweeping the nation currently
win? A delicate subject rather well tackled despite several
rather convenient events in the film.
The Rishi Kapoor that you remember as a singing, dancing hero
in Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin is now a fabulous character actor. And
despite the typical Muslim beard (sans moustache) occupying his
face, he manages to emote brilliantly. He is Murad Ali Mohammed,
the head of a wonderful family – a wife (Neena Gupta as Badi
Tabassum), an NRI son, a Hindu daughter in law (Tapsee Pannu
as Arati Mohammed), a brother (Manoj Pahwa as Bilaal), brother’s
wife (Prachi Shah as Choti Tabassum), a niece (Ayaat), a nephew
(Prateik Babbar as Shahid) – and they are celebrating Murad’s
65th birthday. We have seen Murad living happily with his Hindu
neighbors. Everything seems happy until his nephew Shahid
blows up a bus after having been radicalised.
This is where we come across Danish Javed (Rajat Kapoor in a
wonderful, believable anti-terrorist cop role), who believes in
making a spectacle of Shahid’s capture so that other radicalised
young men will know that the police mean business. The police
investigation results in upsetting the delicate social balance in
the neighborhood. Suddenly, it is ‘all Muslims are terrorists’,
‘Murad and his family should go to Pakistan’. Stones are thrown
at their home, and his friends shun him. His brother is dragged
away and questioned and accused of aiding and abetting
terrorism by the prosecutor (Ashutosh Rana as Santosh Anand).
Since Murad is a lawyer, he promises his brother that his name
will be cleared. But the attacks from the prosecutor and the
comments from the judge (the inimitable Kumud Mishra) seem to
push Murad to breaking point. The trial is well written and very
engaging. There is a character who handles social media for the
prosecutor introduced but apart from a stray dialog about, ‘Do you
know what is happening on social media?’ nothing is really done.
The two Tabassums in the house have not much to do but to look
tragic. The daughter in law Tapsee Pannu looks too weepy in court,
which undermines the the legal argument she makes.
The religion, justice, civil rights arguments are decent and topical.
This is where Rishi Kapoor makes a fabulous case. But it is
Kumud Mishra who is the judge who makes a convincing decision
for the audience.
The film has been shot brilliantly by Ewan Mulligan (the long
continuous shot at the beginning will surprise you rather wonderfully).
The only thing that makes this film a tad weak is the overdoing of
facial expressions by Ashutosh Rana. His grimaces and his
meanness seem needless. His grin is meant to be evil, but had he
been reined in, the film would have been better. Danish Javed’s
prejudices are very well brought out. The subject of Hindu-Muslim
social relationships is volatile even after over seventy years of
independence, and this film strikes a balance, the judge’s words
making it plain. The trial seems to go on and on, and perhaps
they could have avoided repetitions and edited them. But the film
might appeal to ‘believers’ of both religions.
(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com )