Friday, August 05, 2011

Chala Musaddi Office Office 

The Common Man Awakens

Many Hollywood films have been based on TV serials, and Bollywood attempted one – Khichdi—with limited success.  It hasn’t caught on as a trend though.  Not having seen the popular TV series, there is no way to comment on how the film Chala Mussaddi Office Office compares with it. The film, like the series is about a common man, Mussaddi Lal Tripathi’s (Pankaj Kapur) struggles with a sluggish and corrupt bureaucracy.

The idea, though done before, has potential, particularly because there is an anti-corruption wave in the country.  Rajiv Mehra’s film, like the TV series, takes a satirical or farcical approach. However, the plot doesn’t have enough meat to be spread over a full length feature. The TV-like device of having the same actors play different characters also does not quite work.

It takes a very long time to come to the point, and the initial portions of retired school teacher Mussaddi losing his wife, does not set the mood for the rest of the film. He goes with his unemployed and disgruntled son Bunty (Gaurav Kapoor) for a pilgrimage to immerse his wife’s ashes in the Ganges, and finds out, on his return that he has been declared dead and his pension discontinued.
His pleas to the bunch of rapacious bureaucrats (played by Manoj Pahwa, Deven Bhojani, Hemant Pandey, Sanjay Mishra and Asawari Joshi), go unheeded. They refuse to believe he is alive.  The story perhaps needed a darker, more ‘absurdist’ treatment, than this easily played out broad farce. 

Turning the bureaucrats into caricatures – like the woman who spends her days at the office rolling papads—does not serve any purpose. The chilling truth is that a common man could very well go through a similar ordeal, even while dealing with serious bureaucrats, because in their line of duty, the do tend to become apathetic towards the public, not to mention corrupt.

The tragic-comedy lies in the fact that our system allows for this kind of functioning. The law offers no support, and only the media (conspicuous by its absence)  is sometimes helpful.

The film remains at the level of mildly amusing, while it could have been deeply affecting—almost everyone would have at least one brush with the bureaucracy to be able to identify with Mussaddi’s plight.   Except for Pankaj Kapur’s consistently affecting performance, there’s not much going for the film.


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