Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sona Spa 

Perchance To Dream

Makrand Deshpande’s work as a playwright and stage director is fiercely individualistic, whimsical, original and often self-indulgent. However, on stage it is possible to improvise, enhance, chop and change till the last minute, as audiences at Prithvi Theatre, Deshpande’s favoured venue, know his work and are tolerant of aberrations.

Although great filmmakers can work with several layers at once, and leave a lot to the audience’s interpretation, mostly, cinema needs a kind of finality, that theatre does without. So something that works in the theatre, may not quite work on screen.  The spontaneous energy and madness that Deshpande beings to his plays, is considerably dulled when Sona Spa is turned into film.

Like all Deshpande's ideas, this one too is so simple that it is fascinating and so outlandish that it goes into sci-fi territory and the little CGI they use is deplorable.

Sona Spa is a place run by a distant guru (Naseeruddin Shah) droning from TV sets, about the benefits of sleep. In the spa, the employees, whose only qualification is the ability to sleep, do so for clients, so that the busy or insomniac people who pay Rs 2500 an hour for someone to sleep for them, stay refreshed, as if they've had a night of undisturbed slumber.

A mysterious Madam Indira (Pooja Pradhan) runs the place, and the three sleep workers are Rucha (Shruti Vyas), Ritu (Aahana Kumra) and a former sex worked Meenakshi (Nivedita Bhattacharya) who speaks like an tawaif from old Lucknow. Except Meenakshi, who seems well-adjusted to her new life, the other two have problems of their own, and when the men they sleep for have twisted dreams, they suffer the trauma, while the clients are cleansed.

After setting up the strange and eerie scenario, Deshpande's plot goes all over the place, packing in characters who don't need to be there (like Indira's spastic brother) and the novelty of the idea soon wears off.

It has to be admitted, however, that it takes courage to back such a film and release it with a fair amount of promotion, when the only known face is Naseeruddin Shah, who appears to have done it as a favour to a fellow theatrewala.

The cast comprising mostly of the actors who did the stage play, bring a good degree of freshness and enthusiasm to the film.  It might even appeal to those who want to try a truly offbeat film, even though the result may not be entirely satisfying.


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