The provenance of our democracy and our parts in it pervade all conversations today—perhaps one of the ways in which we are making sense of the astonishing political spectacle unfolding.

Feroz Abbas Khan, theatre director and film-maker, is dedicated to the passionately liberal agenda, if his new film, Dekh Tamasha Dekh, is any indication. In it he cleverly encapsulates the absurdities of the nation in a story set in a volatile coastal town in Maharashtra.

Satish Kaushik (left) plays a crypto-facist local businessman and hustler in Dekh Tamasha Dekh

Besides Kaushik and Azmi, most of the other actors too deliver with force. The film does demand a lot of histrionics because the men, women and animals, collectively, are always on the boil, although the best scenes are the quiet, introspective ones. Kaushik has made a career out of being grotesque and here he is elementally that—we first meet him as a wiry man massaging a viscous yellow liquid on to his body. He represents callousness, deceit and corruption, as well as the idiocy of the media.

Khan directs this political satire, written by Shafaat Khan, with jubilant wit and energy. Some of the sequences—shot with minimum fuss by Hemant Chaturvedi—are raucously funny, silly, even liberating, but what gives Dekh Tamasha Dekh its unique character is the cogent, carefully thought out tragedies that punctuate all the silliness.

There is no piggybacking on platitudes like “India is a country of contradictions" or “India simultaneously lives in two centuries". It is an intimate look at how we can kill and decry each other and then coexist in a scarily existential sort of way (Muslims and Hindus may not be able to love, but they can bond in boredom), our daily concerns, like not missing the appointed time for water supply, or our fallible and often dangerous idols. The film’s heart is with the minority sentiment, but it is very far from classic agitprop. One of its more riotous scenes is of a maulvi (Muslim cleric) sitting atop, and at the centre of, a chintzy, makeshift stage, trying to convince the town’s Muslims to be more devout, and to practise self-denial. The mockery is biting.

It’s far from being preachy—its politics is utterly engaging.

Dekh Tamasha Dekh releases in theatres on Friday

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