Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Gour Hari Dastaan 

The Fire Within

To get out of the reviewer mode and share: my grandfather used to be a freedom fighter, but after Independence, he never demanded or expected anything in return. No certificates, tamrapatras, travel concessions or jobs for his children. If he got some honours, he accepted them with humility. The fight for freedom was an act of patriotism, that had to be heartfelt. It was also ironical that so many fake freedom fighters jumped in and collected the benefits meant for the real political sufferers.

So, even though one sympathises with Gour Hari Das’s 32-year struggle for a tamrapatra, and understands totally how callous the system can be, there is nothing earth shattering about the man’s story, in spite of the admiration that he deserves for his persistence. He may not want to gain from it and only want the truth to be acknowledged, but that is something between him and his memories, it can’t always interest the rest of the world.

Ananth Narayan Mahadevan’s film Gour Hari Dastaan – The Freedom File is about Das (Vinay Pathak), who used to be a part of the children’s vanar sena during the freedom movement; he needs to convince his son of it—the son who pushes off to the US. Das embarks on his quest for that certificate, and it a dehumanizing grind to deal with a whole lot of cogs in the government wheel, who couldn’t care less.

A story in a Mumbai paper brought Das’s story to the public—which is also where Mahadevan picked it up from. The journalist Rajiv Singhal is played by (Ranvir Shorey) whose marital and romantic troubles (Tannishtha Chatterjee, is his colleague) make for a dull subplot. For some reason he is rabidly anti-feminist!

You do feel sorry for the man’s frustration, and his wife’s (Konkona Sen Sharma’s) irritation; you often agree that independence hasn’t improved the state of the nation mired in apathy and corruption. But that’s a flimsy peg to hang a whole film on. For instance, Anupam Kher’s battles in Mahesh Bhatt’s Saaransh had more emotive power, because everyone indentified with what he was going through and understood his rage, pain and fear.

Perhap’s Das’s story needed a touch of black comedy, or after point it simply loses momentum. Vinay Pathak is competent, but does not have the range to convey the aging of the character over three decades. Cameos by actors like Saurabh Shukla, Vikram Gokhale, Rajit Kapoor and others keep things ticking.

It’s one of those films that needs to be seen for its  sincerity, but be prepared for a twinge of disappointment.


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