A long-time 'deskie' dabbles in plenty of things without really focussing on anything 'seriously'. Loves economics, football, cricket, films, reading and believe it or not long-distance running!

B Baskar

Masaan – Tragedy and triumph

| Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on August 10, 2015

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I write this blog in great trepidation as I have never written on films before. But a film I saw last week stirred up long forgotten memories from my childhood. The film is Masaan which is set in Benaras, not far from the place where I spent the first 15 years of my life – Allahabad.

As the movie unfolded before my eyes on screen, a part of me which I thought had vanished resurfaced almost magically leaving me in a strange grip of joy and confusion. The milieu and the atmosphere of the film was so familiar, yet it was a world I had left behind a long time ago with no possibility of return. But this is not a review of the film, so there are no spoiler alerts. The acting performances in the film are terrific and not a scene seems out of place.

The two main protagonists of the movie, Devi (Richa Chadda) and Deepak (Vicky Kaushal), live in Benaras – a harsh world where the cops are corrupt, the ‘system’ unjust and a society which is literally groaning under the weight of tradition and convention. Devi is paying the price for succumbing to her desires and Deepak is trying to escape a world of poverty and tradition while also finding love. Their lives move in parallel arcs only to converge at the very end of the film.

This is a world where smartphones, Facebook and computer institutes coexist with the famed cremation grounds of Dom Ghat. The poetry of Mirza Ghalib, Nida Fazli and Brij Narayan Chakbast exist in a world where skulls have to cracked open for the souls to attain peace. Children dive into the River Ganga in search of coins to whet the betting appetite of adults. And escape is a motif this movie keeps coming back to. This film is essentially the escape of Devi and Deepak from an oppressive society whose claustrophobic nature closes in on you.

But is this film only about escape? There are enough characters here who have made their peace with the world and are completely content living in it. Sadhya Ji (Pankaj Tripathy) epitomises this wonderfully.

But in a harsh oppressive, world there are also little joys to be had. Deepak and his vivacious girlfriend Shalu (a brilliant Shweta Tiwary) stealing their first kiss on the banks of the river Ganga being one of them. And Devi’s stubborn refusal to see herself as a victim is a victory in itself. But the harsh world keeps intruding making escape inevitable.

The lives of Devi and Deepak bisect almost at the end of the film on the banks of the Sangam after both have made their very real and symbolic escape. The ending may seem contrived and even cheesy for some but to me it made perfect sense. The symbolism of Devi and Deepak – two damaged souls picking up the shards of their lives – taking a boat ride on Triveni Sangam, a confluence of three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, was an apt way of ending the film.

Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan lays bare the tragedy and triumph of India.

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Published on August 10, 2015
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