There’s something called Butterfly Effect. For the ones who’ve watched the film by the same title must have already nodded in acquiescence about this sensitive dependence in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan is a classic example of this Chaos Theory. It shows how we all are invariably connected to each other and finally end up with the same fate at Masaan i.e. crematorium.
The opening scene of Masaan shocks you to the core and you already find yourself rooting for Richa Chaddha’s character, Devi Pathak. What begins on a serious note, takes you to a never-seen-before world, gently tugging at your heartstrings with its dollops of love generously sprinkled with naivety.
Masaan, in all its brutal honesty, is a perfect love story of our times that we’ve seen after Dum Lagake Haisha. The only difference is the actual ‘hero-heroine’ don’t really meet the way we’ve been watching in our films. The film is about four characters i.e. Devi Pathak (Richa Chaddha), Vidhyadhar Pathak (Sanjay Mishra), Deepak Chaudhary (Vicky Kaushal) and Shaalu (Shweta Tripathi) trying to find their way out amid the quagmire of repression, blackmailing, penury, and casteism. What transpires on screen is sheer brilliance and perhaps the best our senses have ever feasted upon.
There’s a reason why. The craft of making a great film is about shooting a scene where you don’t notice the camera angles (Unless you’re a curious film student or passionate filmmaker), having songs where you appreciate the lyrics and not just the beats, having actors who put in their heart to their performance yet making it seem completely effortless, having a screenplay that keeps you guessing all throughout the proceeding, and most importantly, dialogues that use silences to the level where they become eloquent enough to stir up your emotions.
The film Masaan, dear folks, happens to tick all these aspects and hence differentiates itself from a good film to a great film. Writer and Lyricist Varun Grover could have easily penned smart one-liners (He’s a brilliant stand-up comedian too) and deep philosophical dialogues, songs laced with poetry on love and loss, yet he chooses to distance himself from the usual trappings of a so-called ‘art film’. He instead gives us an immortal tribute to Dushyant Kumar’s ghazal, ‘Tu kisi rail si guzarti hai, mein kisi puul sa thartharata hoon’. He adds his ‘Ishaaron ki chaabiyaan’ to this beautiful ghazal, lending it a tone that resonates with the film.
A smart ‘Paanch rupiye ke chane ke liye itna utpaat bhi nahi machaaya jaata’ is complemented with deep silences that echo the character’s mind. He doesn’t limit this technique just for his four lead characters, but generously employs it across the entire ensemble of talented actors like Bhagwan Tiwari who plays Inspector Mishra, Pankaj Tripathi as Sadhyaji, and even the kid Nikhil Sahni who plays Jhonta.
The music by Indian Ocean touches your senses like the wind blowing across the Ganges near Sangam. Even Sangam has significance in the film, if you read between the frames. The way ‘Tu kisi rail si guzarti hai’ song has been shot is surely the best love song we’ve lately relished on screen. One could already picture Rahul Ram and Amit Kilam smiling with gratitude.
Avinash Arun, the guy who directed and shot the brilliant ‘Killa’ captures the essence of Varanasi with utmost restraint. Editor Nitin Baid and cinematographer Avinash Arun ensure that there are no tourist ad kinds of shots here and we get to see the ghaats as they are, unlike those golden sunrises and crimson sunsets melting in the waters of Ganges.
Among the actors, debutant Vicky Kaushal is first rate. He gets into the character of Deepak Chaudhary and makes it believable, especially a scene where he breaks down and is consoled by his friends. Shweta Tripathi is indeed quite a find, and impresses you with her charm and innocence, which is almost extinct among the current crop of actresses.
Sanjay Mishra goes on to prove that he is much beyond a character actor and owns every scene he features in, especially in the father-daughter conversation scenes. Richa Chaddha demonstrates her acting prowess beyond the Bholi Punjaban she’s known for. Her reason for making out with her lover in a seedy hotel is a simple ‘Jigyaasa’ i.e. curiosity, which kind of sums up her entire upbringing of repressed sexuality.
Kudos to director Neeraj Ghaywan for creating a masterpiece called Masaan. It is indeed no wonder the film is garnering standing ovations across the globe, which is truly well-deserved. Masaan, to sum up, is a hymn of silences and song of the Ganges.