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Saturday, 10 May 2014

Mastram


How many times have we seen a movie that promises so much because of a superb story but fails to live upto its promise with the final product.  Mastram joins that league.  Not because it is a badly made movie in any manner.  I say this more out of disappointment for what could have been.


I must compliment Akhilesh Jaiswal (Screenplay for Gangs of Wasseypur) for being brave enough to pick a topic that lays bare, the hypocrisy in our society – especially the one in the late 70s or early 80s.  It is not easy to deal with a topic such as erotic writing. For that, I give Jaiswal full points.

I also give Jaiswal full points for the manner in which he has handled the eroticism in the movie.  There are 2-3 scenes through the 90 odd minutes of the movie and all of them are very tastefully shot.  They do not look vulgar or pornographic in any manner.  I don’t think there are too many out there who can handle such scenes with the level of maturity that Jaiswal has done.

However, other than these high points, Jaiswal does not set a high benchmark in most other aspects of the movie.  The narrative is slow and on many occasion it seems like he is rambling because he doesn’t really know what to say.  That aspect continues all the way to the end which is quite abrupt.  Seasoned movie goers “may” get the hidden message I am sure but novices will be lost.

Mastram is the story of Rajaram Vaishnav aka Hans (Rahul Bagga) who is a struggling author from Manali.  He is a Masters in Hindi Literature – a qualification that was considered quite a big deal at that time.  But like in that time, he doesn’t get the due that society or employment must give him.  He writes what he can when wiling away his time at the local bank.

He gets married to Renu (Tara Alisha Berry) – who by his standards is quite a catch.  Renu encourages his writing habit and even offers to manage the house if required.  Success, however, continues to elude our hero. He meets a local publisher, Purohit and his brother-in-law Bharti.  They ask him to add some “masala” to his writing.  That marks the beginning of Mastram.

Jaiswal takes forever to build up to the actual conversion of Hans to Mastram.  And after he manages to get there, the time is spent on narrating a couple of sex scenes (albeit tastefully as mentioned earlier).  He doesn’t get to the core of the issue i.e. the stigma that Rajaram has to live with.  And before you know it, the movie is over.

This was a golden opportunity to actually peel out the pain in the lives of people like Rajaram – layer by layer.  Unfortunately, that opportunity goes to waste.  Is Mastram worth watching? The answer would be a feeble yes.  Is it essential to walk across to the big screen? Only because it may encourage Jaiswal and the likes of him to believe that there is a market for quality cinema in India.  6 on 10.

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