Sunday, May 06, 2007


It must be interesting for a filmmaker to examine the line between reality and imagination, and Goutam Ghose attempts it in his latest Yatra. To this abstract idea, he adds his concern for materialism in today’s society, but the two don’t seem to fuse seamlessly, leaving the viewer with a film that’s more didactic than artistic.

Like the beginning when writer Dashrath Joglekar’s (Nana Patekar) family go shopping in a mall, and the scene goes on forever, just so that he can get an idea for his best novel titled Bazaar—how literal can it get.

Then, on his way to Delhi to receive an award, Dashrath meet a filmmaker (Nakul Vaid) on the train, and he narrates a part of his novel Janaaza to him, in which he had created an alter ego Satish, who rescues a courtesan Lajwanti (Rekha) from her patron, who has just let his cronies rape her. In the process of the story-telling, are included three or four mujras— there’s one more later, plus a pseudo cabaret; it’s as if Ghose thought to himself, that if he had signed up prima donna Rekha, he might as well get his money’s worth of dancing from her.

The literary award has been sponsored by an industrial house, that plays its commercial (starring Sanjay Dutt) before the award presentation, again so literal a device to get Dashrath an opening for a speech on consumerism and greed in a market-driven society.

Ghose is unable to express this rather stale rant in adequately cinematic terms. When Dashrath goes to meet the real Lajwanti in Hyderabad, while his wife (Deepti Naval) fumes, the classical singer and dancer is seen doing a crude film number for a bunch of drunken youth, which is meant to portray the selling of pure culture to Bollywood (that is Bazaar) vulgarity. Since Lajwanti follows this with a classical mujra for Dashrath, you deduce that Ghose wants to say that the old way of life with leisurely performance by tawaifs was better. It’s all very well to romanticize the past, but was it any less exploitative for the women?

The film splutters to life when Rekha is on screen, but towards the end, even her Umrao Jaan adas get to be giggle-inducing. Deepti Naval is bankably intense as the wife, Nana Patekar with his slow drawl is oddly off-colour.

At one point the writer asks the filmmaker about his approach to the story-- “real, unreal or surreal.” Ghose film also flounders between the three—which would have made for very exciting cinema if he had been able to pull it off. Yatra is an idea that doesn’t culminate into a very satisfying journey.


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