My #100MoviePact got off to a great start with that one movie I was dying to watch last year but could not, thanks to a change of jobs and cities (complicated further by a college and family reunion).
Masaan was absolutely stunning, to say the least and I don’t think I have much to say beyond what the unanimously gushing critics have done already.
Director Neeraj Ghaywan revealed in the Making Of section that he had got the idea for one-third of the film – the love story of Deepak and Shaalu – when he was told by a colleague about the Dom community (who burn dead bodies on the banks of Ganga). He wanted to make a short film with it and coopted writer Varun Grover (who graduated from IIT-BHU) for his intimate knowledge of Banaras. The second story of Devi developed from there and along with it came Devi’s father and a young orphan boy.
A film made from intertwined stories of different characters – as a concept – is nothing new but where Masaan differentiates is to eschew a grand closing where all the pieces (or characters) converge at a dramatic crescendo. The crossing of paths of the five main characters happen very subtly, smoothly and with a maturity that belie the youth of the writer-director duo. I felt that Masaan became a great film because they didn’t do a “look how coolly I resolved the ending” kind of stunt.
The casting of Masaan is fantastic, with every bit player looking the part and playing the part.
The bullying police officer. Deepak’s friends, who form a typical girl-obsessed, flamboyantly dressed quartet. The internet café owner. The owner of the computer coaching institute. Even the postman bearing good news – who appeared for all of ten seconds – stood out.
And of course, the major players – Sanjay Mishra, Pankaj Tripathi, Shweta Tripathi, Richa Chadha – were fantastic though the revelation of the film was Vicky Kaushal playing Deepak, the love-struck yet ambitious civil engineering student.
The snatches from the QSQT soundtrack forming the score for the love story.
The shayeri recital on phone, harking back to a similar scene in Aandhi with Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar.
The amazingly life-like dialogues that are typical of East UP, be it the roadside romancing or campus interviews at engineering polytechnics. Silly banter between teenagers as well as uncomfortable conversations around sex between a father and daughter, all of them are superbly written.
And finally, a special mention for the soaring music score by Indian Ocean (helped, in no small measure, by Grover's lyrics)… the Durga Puja scene in which Tu kisi rail si plays has to be one of the best song picturisations of recent times – the visuals, the words and the music forming a soaring effect. (Watch the film to see what I just did there!)
Masaan is a searingly real portrayal of small-town India - the loves, the fears, the ambitions, the insecurities, the honesty, the corruption, the trains, the bridges, the lives, the deaths... If you haven't watched it, I'd say you have not experienced India to the fullest, not seen Indian cinema at its best.
Do read this Hindi review of the film: किसी कविता सी गुजरती है ‘मसान’
And check out this album of Banarasi lingo. Bhayankar phun!