I must accept I had no clue what Masaan meant till I watched this glorious film. Not being from north of India, there are many words that strike me every now and then when I watch Hindi films. But rarely are words used in such symbolically potent manner as in Neeraj Ghaywan's first film as a director. Kudos probably would go equally to Varun Grover, better known for his impeccable stand up acts that are also available on Youtube. Who would have thought a man as funny could touch you so deep!
In the middle of this thought-arousing tale is a sweet love story between a 'dom' guy (Vicky Kaushal) and a higher caste girl (Shweta Tripathy). Now 'doms' are underprivileged people who man crematoriums. They are the ones who will help with cremation but are looked down upon. And you would expect this love story would be torn apart by caste differences. Nah! Masaan is not a commentary on caste issues. Instead this romance almost consumes you, not letting you look away from the screen.
Running parallel is a slightly darker story. Of greed, blackmail, moral policing and mindsets. A good old translator's (Sanjai Mishra) daughter (Richa Chadda) is caught by the police in a compromising position with her boyfriend (Saurabh Chadhary) in a shady hotel while cracking down on possible prostitution racquet. The policeman in charge (Bhagwan Tiwari) seizes the opportunity to blackmail the family. Premarital sex taboo!
And Ghaywan brings the two stories together, almost too easily. He manages to present a realistic view of a hypocritical society. Boosting the director's vision is some beautiful work by cinematographer Avinash Arun. He brings to life the Ganga and brings texture to the story.
The weakest link in Masaan is probably its best known name Richa Chaddha. Usually known for powerful performances (even in damp squibs like Tamanchey!) she does not quite seem herself. An inconsistent effort mars some great scenes. Thankfully she is more than enough compensated by terrific efforts by the rest of the cast. Special mentions for Shwety, Vicky and Bhagwan.
Masaan delivers much more than what it promises. It is not just an engaging watch... it is one that leaves you envious, and emotional.
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