Cast: Shreyas Talpade, Amrita Rao, Ila Arun, Ravi Kishan, Rajeshwari Sachdev, Yashpal Sharma, Divya Dutta.
I've always loved Shayam Benegal: I've seen so much of his work and cried so copiously through it all, that I am rather wary of it- so much pain and angst always! From Charandas Chor to Nishant to Suraj Ka Satwan Ghoda (oh that last one was especially sob-worthy :)), Mr. Benegal is a brilliant director great at angst-ridden, socially education cinema.
So I was pleasantly surprised that while I did shed tears during Welcome to Sajjanpur, some of those tears were also attributable to laughter- its as if he has adopted some qualities of the Hrishikesh Mukherjee brand of cinema, and made it his own. This is a really clever movie- an essential part of my top 10 this year.
The action takes place in a Northern Indian village, where Shreyas lives- despite his Bachelor's degree, like so many of the Indian youth, he hasn't been able to secure a decent job, so he comes back to his village to write his novel. However, his writing skills soon make him the village's letter writer of choise, to the extent that he opens shop in the village marketplace and charges nominal sums to write everything from love letters to petitions to the police chief, as requested.
So many people need his help- the local goon wants his wife to be the elected leader of the village, and therefore petitions the chief of police to arrest the honest transvestite who is standing in the elections. The transvestite in turn petitions for police protection from the goon who may resort to murder to stop him from running. Which letter will work better?
Then there is Ravi Kishen, a low-caste who is in love with a young widow, Rajeshwari- Shreyas writes voluminous love letters, which win the heart of both the widow and her father-in-law- but will the wedding really happen?
Then there is Amrita, whose husband Kunal hasn't returned from Bombay, where he went to work, in years- but will Shreyas be able to write her pleas to him to return- since he is falling in love with her himself?
There is also Ila- whose daughter Divya is unlucky, and no suitable boy can be found for her. What will Divya's fate be- spinsterhood or marriage to a puppy (yes, really!) to remove the evil eye upon her?
In all of this of course is also Shreyas' novel, which must come to fruit inspite of all his distractions and the events unfolding around him.
- This movie can be placed in any period of time- the 70s, 80s or the 90s, and would fit right in- the issues and people transcend time. Watch it, and you will see why.
- You may think that when the movie ends, you know what happened and why- but the Benegal throws a twist at you, and attributes it to poetic license :)
- I really really liked this movie- probably because Shreyas comes out on top and really binds the whole thing together- I really enjoy watching him, and he reminds me very strongly of the everyman that Amol Palekar used to portray- they even resemble each other! Which also reminds me of SRK in the upcoming "Rab ne Bana di Jodi"- he is SO pulling an Amol there it is adorable :D
- Amrita Arora just doesn't do anything for me- she suits the role though, and does well enough.
- Ravi Kishen is a revelation! Apparently he is legendary in Bhojpuri cinema, which I don't doubt- he acts really well here, and I would love to see more of him.
- Divya Dutta and Ila Arun are brilliant in their parts- just wish there had been more of them :)