Arural setting can be a tricky thing for film-makers. The need for authenticity becomes more challenging. While a city, or even a small town, has some cosmopolitan, universal traits about it, villages are about culture, community and distinctive ways of life.
The best thing about Daayen ya Baayen by Bela Negi—her first film, set in a beautiful, languid village in Uttarakhand—is its authenticity. The people are weak-willed,?but?not petty or malicious. They are lazy and mild, willingly giving in to the onslaught ofTV soaps and silently suffering the apathy of the system. Negi manages to etch a group portraitzof the community by giving each character small quirks and mannerisms. The backdrop for this story of Ramesh (Deepak Dobriyal), an aspiring writer and poet, are the breathtaking Himalayas and an undulating Himalayan landscape.
It is a charming film which suffers from an overwritten and overstretched script. But the director’s love for her subject (she is from the village in which she sets the story) and her comfort with it makes it worth a watch. The humour is mellow, she seems to laugh with the characters rather than at them.
Charming: Deepak Dobriyal (right) gives a convincing performance as the film’s protagonist.
Ramesh returns from Mumbai to his family and realizes nothing has changed in his village. He is a bumbling man, a laughing stock for the villagers. Ramesh stubbornly holds on to his dream of opening a cultural centre in the village and changing the way children are taught in the school. But there are impediements because nobody believes change in possible, and he becomes a joke.
Unexpectedly, Ramesh has a windfall—in the form of a swanky red car, thanks to a young man who sends his writing to a TV contest. The car’s arrival makes Ramesh popular. The vehicle is used for all kinds of chores by everyone in the village, making for many humorous situations. But Ramesh soon realizes that the car is a curse. In a long-winded, ludicrous climax, he gets caught in a journey that goes awfully wrong.
The film’s cast is composed of villagers who have never faced a camera. The amateur actors give the film its charming rawness and unpretentiousness. Dobriyal, who has given some memorable performances in the past—including in Omkara and Dilli-6—makes Ramesh likeable and convincing. There are, however, a few instances of awkward acting.
Visually, Daayen ya Baayen is a treat. Cinematographer Amlan Datta has no dearth of picturesque frames, but the beauty never becomes daunting, overwhelming the story. Not much is made of the snow-capped Himalayas, visible in some scenes.
Negi is not judgemental about the people—be it indifferent teachers or apathetic politicians. There are three computers in the local college, but the wires have been eaten by rats. Her comments on the threat to the village’s ecosystem, the state of its education, the condition of women and other ills are woven into the dialogues and scenes.
Daayen ya Baayen is not an entertainer, but it has its moments. If not for its original story and languid pace, it should be watched for its setting—just to visit a warm, beautiful village.
Daayen ya Baayen released in theatres on Friday.
From Paris with Love | French (dis)connect
Writer Luc Besson has notched up an impressive list of hit thrillers such as The Fifth Element, Transporter, Leon and Nikita. Taken, his earlier collaboration with director Pierre Morel, was just a passable thriller. But his new film, From Paris with Love, is tiresome and lacks any redeeming quality.
This action-thriller, starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, should not be confused with the episodic multiple-director homage to the French capital, Paris, je t’aime. Travolta plays Charlie Wax, which could just be a nickname for his shiny bald pate. With the thick, silver earrings and constant grimace, the unorthodox American special operations agent barrels his way through Paris in uncontested fights where his body count averages one an hour. In an obvious doffing of the hat to his character Vincent in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Wax also loves “Royale with cheese” burgers.
A royal bore: Jonathan Rhys Meyers is miscast in this thriller.
Meyers plays James Reece, personal aide to the US ambassador to France, whose secret ambition is to become a CIA special-operations agent. In an already weak script, Meyers is miscast and struggles to find his métier. He resorts to textbook gestures such as removing his glasses before delivering a punchline and is further burdened by juvenile dialogues such as this: “Why don’t we skip dinner and go straight to dessert?”
Reece and Wax become partners on a case in Paris, but there are no obstacles in their way, no intrigue in the plot and for some inexplicable reason the trail starts in a Chinese restaurant and ends at an AIDS summit in Paris. By the time of the second pointless one-sided fight, you’ve lost interest in this film and can’t wait to skip the main course, even if it is a Royale with cheese.
From Paris with Love released in theatres on Friday