Ahista Ahista Hindi Movie
What if Hrishikesh Mukherjee's favourite actress Sharmila Tagore was cast with Basu Chatterjee's favourite actor Amol Palekar in one of those easy winsome breezy romantic comedies of the 1970s?
The result would've been something like "Ahista Ahista" - nice and slow yet fluently absorbing. For a large part of the narrative you sincerely want to know what happens to the runaway girl Megha (Soha Ali Khan) and the working-class guy Ankush (Abhay Deol) who comes to her rescue after her groom-to-be deserts her.
A simple story, seemingly original and fresh "Ahista Ahista" sweeps you gently into its arc of mint-flavoured emotions. The characters, minor or major are utterly believable.
Whether it is Ankush's friends at the marriage registry office (and these include that wonderful child actor Ashwin Chitale from the Marathi film "Shwaas" as the 'chai-wallah') or the whole Jama Masjid Muslim locality that defines a major portion of the narrative, the proceedings are kept subdued and stress-free.
The art and camera-work are unostentatious yet eye-catching.
Somehow you feel things are going to work out just fine for these two seeming losers who discover love, togetherness and finally a wretchedly unhappy ending to their short-lived relationship.
The happy ending is denied to this utterly unaffected couple. But the brief, finally grief encounter is sweet-timbered and endearing while it lasts.
Both Abhay Deol and Soha Ali Khan add considerably to the plot's plausibility. They are natural, sincere and endearing though Deol needs to improve his dialogue delivery and gauche body language.
Soha has been shot (by cinematographer Prakash Kutty) like her mother Sharmila Tagore. She is heartbreakingly expressive and fragile. Among the peripheral characters Shakeel Khan as Deol's Muslim buddy is surprisingly effective.
A sweet sincere tender film with enough heart to tell it apart from the pretenders which try to sweep you off your feet, "Ahista Ahista" keeps you rooted to reality most of the way. Even when the kind and generous hero decides to keep his sweetheart's fiance's return a secret, you don't really hate him for that bit of deception.
How can you, when the couple is so absorbed in the task of living with dignity in a society that makes the middle-class answerable for all its aspirations and dreams.
Writer Imtiaz Ali and debutant director Shivam Nair deserve high praise for delving into those quiet shared moments of anguished togetherness between a couple which is too busy surviving today to dare to dream about tomorrow.