Friday, January 8, 2010

Masoom ( Innocent ) 1983

**Shekhar Kapur**Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana, Saeed Jaffrey, Tanuja, Supriya Pathak, Urmila Matondkar*Gulzar ( script )*

Shekhar Kapur's first film, from where he took off into a variegated career spanning the likes of Mr. India, Bandit Queen, Elizabeth.

It is always nice to punctuate life with an occasional Bollywood flick ( as a relief , not to mention a return to one's own roots ), and this one, coming from the yet budding talent of Shekhar Kapur, supported by a script from the sensitive and sentimental Gulzar, is a pleasant enough specimen of the genre. Shekhar wisely may have decided to line his pocket with a block-buster or two ( this was followed by Mr. India with it's inimitable and immortal villain-comedian Mogambo ) before getting into the more serious and riskier waters.

D.K.Malhotra ( DK for short ) and Indu are an upper middle class Delhi based couple who along with their two ebullient school going daughters, share the common yet uncommon joys of familial bliss, depicted with deft and light strokes. There is a charming song-dance sequence at a party by Naseerudin Shah and Jaffrey in which their comic talent as well as  plasticity of limb and torso is  used to good effect.

A telegram from Nainital serves as the spanner in the spokes. It is from the dying schoolmaster who is in charge of an illegitimate son of DK, the result of a brief affair soon after his marriage to Indu. DK was unaware of this offspring, since the mother chose to disappear from his life. The mother herself dies, leaving his charge to the good hearted school master.

DK has to bring the boy into his family against the wishes of his wife. The daughters take to him immediately, and the movie revolves around the family drama of the wife's reaction to the husband's confessed infidelity, and her overt resentment to the boy.

At best, it is a drama of childhood, a boy innocent of his own illegitimacy, and his consuming need for love and parents. Shabana is a fine actress, expressive in her silences, and the fire-brand on screen which she is in real life. Her gradual melting towards the unwanted boy is a great performance. Who can forget her roles in Shyam Benegal's Ankur and Ray's Shatranj ke Khilari Naseeruddin also is an actor of range and versatility, the sort for whom Hindi cinema has not proven worthy. He is at his most natural best in Monsoon Wedding.

Shekhar Kapur's natural ability enables to steer clear from being totally formulaic, while yet remaining in the safety zone of commercial viability and popular expectations. It's a movie which gives  hope for better things to come. It's a different question if they did. At least he made it as far as Hollywood.


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