Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi
"Hazaaron khwaishein aisi
ki har khwaish pe dum nikle
Bahut nikle mere armaan
lekin phir bhi kam nikle"
– Mirza Ghalib
Ghalib’s poetry has the quintessential quality of striking exactly that right chord in your heart. I cannot imagine anyone not being moved one way or the other by his shers and ghazals. This post, however, is not about poetry – it is about a film by Sudhir Mishra that takes its name and inspiration from the above couplet.
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi has a number of factors going for it – well-written story with a decent script (extremely rare in Hindi cinema), character development and some good acting by the relatively unknown cast (two of the lead actors are making their debut). Still, somewhere between the idea and execution, Sudhir Mishra seems to lose the plot, turning Hazaaron…. into yet another film that promises much but appears flat on delivery.
The story, involving three young protagonists, spans five years from the late 60’s, when the Naxal movement was gaining steam in Bengal, to the mid-70’s, with the imposition of Emergency in a power-grabbing maneuver by Indira Gandhi. This an era of which I personally know only through second hand information, but always sounds like a tipping point for Indian politics. Given a palette of such turbulent and volatile political climate, I was hoping that Mishra would capture the angst of the contemporary youth, as well as the pains of the adolescent Indian democracy transitioning from its post-Independence innocence. Again, he succeeds only partially. Apart from the slight undercurrent of anti-Indira Gandhi/Congress running through the film, the intensity of the Naxal-led revolution in Bihar and the brutal police response to it, or the subtlety of the political shenanigans in Delhi is missing.
Beyond the larger backdrop, however, Hazaaron…. is really a personal story centered around the three characters Siddharth, Vikram and Geeta. And in telling their story of relationships and self-discovery, the film really excels. Siddharth (Kay Kay Menon) comes from a rich, upper-class Delhi-socialite background and perhaps typically of those days, is chock-full of Naxalite ideals of a class-less society through armed revolution. Following his ideology, he jumps into a full-fledged armed revolution in Bihar. College-mate Vikram, the son of a Gandhian socialist from a small UP town, is a pragmatist. He wants to succeed financially and climb the social ladder at all costs and uses his political connections to do so. Both men are vying for the attention of Geeta, born and brought up abroad but current living in a surprisingly liberal joint family environment (she comes home one morning with a guy after being out all-night with nary an admonition). Mishra takes an intimate look at the often interconnecting lives of these people: Siddharth’s grappling with idealism in a real world, Geeta’s attraction towards Siddharth (or his ideals) while falling back on Vikram for the occasional moral support and finally Vikram’s unrequited love that in the end forces him into doing something impractical against his usual nature.
There are several scenes that stand out for their wry humor and poignancy – as Vikram visits Siddharth’s palatial mansion for the first time, he observes – ‘god – these people call themselves Marxists !’; in another scene, Siddharth’s father, a former judge, asks his son a honest question – why does he want to achieve his aim through such a violent method.
In the end, I should stress that this is a film definitely worth your time. My lament is that given the ingredients it could and should have been a much better product. Instead, we are left with something that feels half-baked.
A word about the music – the background music by Shantanu Moitra is excellent. Snatches of the theme songs, based on Ghalib’s famous lines recur throughout the film. ‘Baawra Man’ by Swanand Kirkire is simply brilliant – it is currently enjoying the most played song status on my iPod.