It was only when the end credits rolled that I came to know that one of the two female protagonists in this terrific though flawed journey into the bowels of patriarchy, is named Rekha. Rekha Sharma. Married to the tacitly tyrannical Sanjay Sharma ( the superbly well-cast Rajan Modi). Don’t get Sanjay Sharma wrong. He loves his wife, the repressed nameless (till the end titles)Rekha and wants the best for his 17-going-on-18-in –hours daughter Arshi (Medha Shankar). But he doesn’t allow them to breathe the free air outside the domain of his rules. Enter the rule-breakers and potential balls-breakers, a fusion music band with a rebellious lead singer Sasha (Kirti Kulhari) screaming her fuck-societal-rules protest at every given pretext.
Sasha and her band members, played with delightful naturalness by Apurva Dogra (Freddie), Jigme (Shenpenn Khymsar) and Imad (Ajay Jayanthi), all real-life musicians, each one a revelation in his own right, have a task on hand. They must take Mr & Mrs Sharma and their silently simmering daughter with them on their van from Mumbai to Ajmer at a family wedding where Sasha and her friends are to perform. It is a giveaway setup. You know, the cultural clash between the liberated youngsters and fuddy-duddy repressed parental generation who THINK they know everything. But guess what! They are hopelessly out of step with reality. This could have been a typical cultural-clash film with predictable conflicts and fireworks.
Director Raj Singh Chaudhary converts the clash between patriarchy and non-conformism into something beyond the expected, something special. Thanks to the performances which are so clued-in they make the obvious plot holes (for example, the patriarch’s sudden enlightenment at the end) not just bearable but, in some strange way, beautiful. The verbal exchanges between the repressed Sharmas and the bohemian musicians are pithy and natural. The relationship between the two opposites flows to natural growth. Nothing put on about this. The musicians are smirky about their co-travellers but polite and kind.
When Mr Sharma talks to them in English, one of the musicians' whispers, “Why do these Uncle types insist on speaking in English when they can’t?” He compounds his sardonicism by greeting the Sharma family with “Welcome abroad (sic.)” a common vernacular error substituting ‘aboard’ with ‘abroad’ though of course, such ‘colonial conceits’ are not peculiar to vernacular uncles alone. A lot of the generalizations about the ‘repressed Indian middle class and the ‘liberated urban youth’ are fallacious and simplistic. This is where the conversations between the nameless Mrs Sharma and the free-spirited Sasha come in. They are illuminating and provocative. And the two actresses dig into their dialogue duel with a heartfelt relish. Sushil Rajpal’s camera never intrudes. It lets the characters be. Sushil and Nakul’s music blending rock and Rajasthani folk never strains for effect. The music echoes the cultural dilemma that the film so disarmingly tries to dissect.
Kirti Kulhari is incapable of giving an ordinary performance. Her Sasha is arrogant and persuasive and a bit of a bully and she carries some kinda deep hurt within. She is a mix of madness and mystique. And it’s been a while since we saw that fine actress Nivedita Bhattacharya in such a meaty role. As the repressed wife who wants her daughter to fly, Bhattacharya is brilliant. Come to think of it every actor big or small, slips into the narrative’s fluid fabric, giving us a film that may not be the most perfect portrait of a society in flux but still a lot better than films about gangsters and cops who just need to grow up. Shaadisthan tells you why.
Directed by Raj Singh Chaudhary, Shaadisthan gets 3 and a half stars!
Image Source: Instagram/iamkirtikulhari, youtube/disneyplushotstarvip
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