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MouthShut Score

86%
3.77 

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Impaled at the Crossroads of Ideology and Love
Mar 22, 2012 05:21 PM 3015 Views
(Updated Nov 17, 2013 12:31 AM)

Plot:

Performance:

Music:

Cinematography:

With an acoustic backdrop of sea-waves composing their music, the opening credits are presented in dynamic aquamarine, etched over a nebulous shifting landscape. The prologue is painted in slick monochrome - a stone deck is picturized ,with an anchor positioned at its edge.Rain briefly drenches the stage and then in its restful dripping aftermath the hero is shown- sitting quietly through the downpour- his flowing coat flapping in the breeze,all-weather obsidian shoes neatly crossed in contemplation.


These sequences grace the start of Moksha,released in 2001 and received with little herald. Ashok Mehta , the gifted cinematographer, crafted the story and directed the film, with the screenplay by Raj Marbros. I watched this movie more than a decade ago, transfixed by its vaulting art and regard it with the same zenith of admiration now. Moksha handsomely fulfills the ambition inherent in its name, and audaciously constructs a magnificent narrative soaked in mounting pathos. One only rarely witnesses this level of vision and execution in mainstream Indian cinema.


The afore-described young man in the story is named Vikram -we see him at the beginning as he wallows in solitude and reflection, zooms around in his SUV and relaxes inside it smoking a cigarette (prescience of fatalism?)....


Vikram’s ( Arjun Rampal in a debut role of ample emotional sinew) profound cogitation is revealed to have a very worthy purpose. Born into a wealthy mansion, he has a caring mother and a stern but concerned father (played by Suresh Oberoi) .Not belonging to the type who itches to turn millions into billions,he expresses little interest in coverting his degree in law to a lucrative career. Early on, he voluntarily cuts short his apprenticeship in a high-profile legal firm because they refuse to take on the case of a poor boy who is innocent of what he is accused. They need more fees ,not the paltry Rs.20,000 that has been cobbled together.The case ends on a note of double-tragedy.The enraged Vikram resolves to open an altruistic company of attorneys which will exclusively take on the legal cases of the underprivileged. Rs.30 lakh is estimated to be the capital investment needed for this institution.


A lovely young lady Ritika (Manisha Koirala) takes a liking towards this intense, horse-riding hunk. After initial disregard, he warms up to her and they soon become lovers. Thus fortified sentimentally (this perspective slowly degrades as the story advances) Vikram proceeds with the plans of opening his pro bono firm.He writes an article "Will We Hang an Innocent Man?, which in the grandiose tradition of Hindi movies, gets published directly below the masthead of the "Saturday Times". He gets a lot of accolades for his noble intentions,but both his father and the latter’s coterie of rich friends refuse to cough up the funds for the foundation. Vikram gets increasingly frustrated as his desire to fulfill his vision intensifies..


Deciding that the only way left to get the capital amount is by resorting to an extreme act,he discloses this course of action to Ritika. She is understandably shocked but in trying strongly to express solidarity with her lover, she agrees to support his plan. Vikram further initiates an adherence to a pact with her -the terms of this agreement are draconian to say the least. It is at this point that Vikram’s intentions come across as a distorting obssession rather than a noble endeavour...


Mehta’s work here is ripe with visual flair . The private universe of glossy stark monochrome that he designs for his hero, is grandly sombre and expansively aesthetic. Indoor sets ,be it an office, court or a private bungalow ,are picturized in neatly elegant production design. On a couple of occasions towards the end, he employs a style of quickly cycling through a succession of visually similar frames before launching into an event of special significance- for example when a bullet shot rings out, its echo is cut in parallel with symmetric shots of landscape before seguing onto the main event. Manisha Koirala ’s allure (ably augmented by lustrous emotions) is singled out, deservingly ,for special focus.Her features are carefully presented - they are dressed in a range of fashionable outfits, her face is showcased in all its tenderness and sweet beauty, her figure is shown in varying forms- pleasantly voluptuous, innocently carnal, stylishly slim.


Strikingly artistic images further abound- a picture from the past re-surfaces ,its chiselled features develop cracks from which two temporary bodies arise and unite in eternal embrace while a wave of blue silk swirls skyward. A lover gazes at his woman’s gently naked waist, lost in the magic of its soft seduction. And then there’s the the hero’s face looking upwards,his hands clasping shut his head from the cries of hell and heaven, eyes and features contorting in magnificent torture.


This is one of those films that slowly,inexorably gathers momentum as it nears its end. A courtroom episode in the second half is remarkable for its irony and notable for its clarity of narration. Vikram gives a confident lucid demonstration of how he could have gone on to become a fine lawyer. But when an emergency threatens to gravely compromize his case, he swiftly hits upon the idea of a startlingly honest narrative, as detailed as it is concise. Its eventual result is a triumph of story-telling.


In his debut, Arjun Rampal deserves praise for carving out an intense performance- he ably internalizes the roiling character of Vikram. Rampal finishes the show with a paroxysm of transcendent emotion that is beyond fault. The film has a impressive constellation of cast, many pitching in with brief performances- Suresh Oberoi,Danny Denzongpa,Naseeruddin Shah,Gulshan Grover, Kiran Kumar,the late Mohan Gokhale of the ’Mr.Yogi’ fame,Paresh Rawal,Saurabh Shukla, Farida Jalal, Sushma Seth..


Among its mostly lacklustre songs, only one is memorable- Jaan leva .The flowing vocals of Sukhwinder S. and Kavita K. wash over the orgiastic percussion, while both the dancers and the landscape wear a primal-chic design. Clad in ripped jeans and a weathered vest Arjun Rampal sports his muscles trudges in angst and dances on a note of resurgent liberation while a trident-wielding wicked temptress grooves with her minions.


The Brothers Salim-Suleiman have provided their talent for the background score here. Listen to how it quickly quietly inserts a note of evil when a character is revealed to suddenly halt in his tracks enroute a sprint for help, and how it provides a beautifully elegiac undertone to the ending.


Moksha ,in sum, becomes a film about a system which is often infertile to justice,and about how this state of affairs triggers the hero’s descent into a vicious spiral. Arjun loves his ambition for ensuring equality of law,and he loves his lady. But in this story there is no consummation of desire, only an orgasm of sorrow... and a climax of salvation in an apocalypse.


As a stunning revelation destroys his world in the terminal stages of the story, he sinks into an abyss from which he does not want to return. Fatalism creeps in despite the fact that what he desperately wanted before is now being handed to him on a platter. But all is not lost and he is still bestowed a supreme sigh of relief in the end -


Mera tho sapna bhi thum ho aur sach bhi thum


Ab na sapna hai na sach, bas thum hi thum ho


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