Agni Varsha Hindi Movie Review

Feature Film
Aug 26, 2002 By

The sky lights up with eerie and erotic anxieties as debutant director Arjun Sajnani unleashes a furious drama of passion on screen. Agnivarsha is a romp into an ancient past.

As the excursion begins, Jackie Shroff, sans a moustache, plays the priest Paravasu who is performing a yagna, or a fire ritual, to bring rains to a drought-stricken area.

The parched unproductive area becomes a metaphor for the erotic yearnings of the priest's sexually unfulfilled wife Vishakha, played by Raveena Tandon.

In many ways Sajnani's film hinges on the character of the priest's wife. Raveena lends eroticism to the role.

She convincingly portrays the priest's wife who is abandoned by her husband for a larger cause, bullied by her aggressive father-in-law (Mohan Agashe), and seduced by her husband's self-seeking cousin Yavakri (Nagarjuna) and protected and pampered by her callow brother-in-law Arvasu (Milind Soman).

In the song sequence Prem ki varsha, shot by the maverick image-maker Anil Mehta of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Lagaan fame, Raveena looks beautiful.

It's easy to get carried away by the battery of brilliant eye-catching performances that Sajnani has extracted from his impressive actors, including, model-turned actor Milind Soman who as the naïve and artless Arvasu changes his entire body language and sinewy persona to play a simpleton.

Agnivarsha is the sum total of technical virtuosity and more. It gathers its strength from the crisscrossing of characters in Girish Karnad's intricately woven play, which Sajnani's transposes wholesale to screen.

But there are inbuilt disadvantages in the transposition. For instance, time passages that are so essential to cinematic narration are here condensed to a blur of activities.

Sajnani is not conversant with the language of cinema. That's both an advantage and a disadvantage in his debut film.

While the periodicity and spirit of earthy wistfulness of a play-on-film is celebrated, pauses and punctuations that constitute a complete and self-contained cinematic experience are missing.

In the absence of vital cinematic qualities, Agnivarsha simply rains its fiery theme of feudal, religious and patriarchal conflicts without creating a mood of stimulating and absorbing involvement among the audience.

One desperately seeks a centrality in the rapidly swirling narration and comes up with the innocent and non-judgemental love of Paravasu's younger brother Arvasu (Milind Soman) for the tribal girl Nittilai (Sonali Kulkarni).

The contrast that the couple provides to the Brahminical intrigues that grip the main narrative is greatly comforting and illuminating.

To his credit, Sajnani isn't uncomfortable doing the song and dance routine. These are meshed into the aggravated drama with subtlety.

There's a separate idiom of musical expression for the Brahminical clan and the tribal village. Kudos to song composer Sandesh Shandilya and background music scorer Taufiq Qureshi for creating different strands in sound design.

Without a shred of doubt, Sajnani's directorial debut evokes feelings of curiosity, intrigue, anxiety and enigma. But viewers never become absorbed. The characters belong to the realm of stage play rather than motion picture.

To complicate matters the entire story of love at the time of hierarchical war unfolds in a flashback with sutradhar, or narrator, Raghuveer Yadav performing a symbolic dance that immobilises the emotional persuasions of the plot.

But the film is beautifully designed. The sequence where Nittilai says goodbye to her beloved Aravasu for the last time as dawn envelopes the sprawling tribal village down below is proof of Sajnani's highly developed aesthetic sense.

But the climax where the mighty Amitabh Bachchan appears as the rain god is much too longwinded to hold the audience.

Jackie Shroff is interesting in parts.

The most comic performance comes from Prabhu Deva as the demon conjured by Ar