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Touched my heart
Sep 20, 2008 10:40 PM 1831 Views
(Updated Sep 20, 2008 10:50 PM)





A word of warning – I am not using my brains while writing this review, I am only using my heart. Because after a long long time a movie has touched my heart. Whats so great about it? Nothing. It’s just a simple film that gives you some genuine smiles and genuine tears.

Remember Malgudi Days on DD about two decades back? The realistic settings, the warm atmosphere, the loves, the fears, the relationships, the prejudices, the identifiable characters – happy people, sad people, low ambitions, the quiet acceptance of poverty. Did I say identifiable? Yes such people were identifiable 15-20 years ago.

‘Welcome to Sajjanpur’ took me back to those days. But no - Sajjanpur is not Malgudi. Which is good because the innocence of Malgudi would not have been identifiable to us cynical folks of 2008. Sajjanpur's innocence is tinged with cynicism, the power struggles filled with dirty politics, the culture of tolerance mixed equally with racism. But Sajjanpur has one main thing in common with Malgudi – it is completely and unapologetically ‘Indian’ – it celebrates both the good and evil of our Indianness.

I am not able to write the story of this movie because there is actually no story. It is an amalgamation of characters in a small village somewhere in the heart of India. Mahadev (Shreyas Talpade) is the only properly literate person in the village. His ambition is to be a writer. But for a living he writes letters for the people since almost all the population of the village is illiterate. Because of this he knows whats going on in everybody’s life. He is a kind of confidant to most people in the village who pour out their hearts to him while dictating their letters to him. Saying anything more would not be fair for those who are yet to see the movie.

I am not going to rate the performances individually because each and every actor excels. The performances do not seem like performances. These are people we fall in love with within five minutes of being introduced to them – Amrita Rao as the lonely wife waiting for her husband to come back, Ravi Kishan as the romantic compounder, Ila Arun as the superstitious mother, Rajeshwari as the child widow, her seemingly tough father-in-law, the goon of the village, the eunuch, the teacher, and lots of other actors whose names I don’t know.

The strength of Welcome to Sajjanpur is that you feel, actually feel for each and every character. Which is something considering its mainly a comedy movie. The characters are funny in a realistic way, there are no over the top efforts to make the audience laugh. So you laugh out loud when something funny happens and can’t stop your tears when something bad happens to them. And it does. Not all the characters have happy endings. And you give a silent thanks to the director for giving happy endings to those characters who do end up happy.

Hats off to Shyam Benegal for making a movie which is not only entertains but also makes so many social comments without once seeming preachy. Its not that the movie is without flaws – the songs are a hindrance, the second half drags in some places. But when you have had a wholesome and delicious meal it seems petty to complain about one particular dish not having the right amount of salt.

If you appreciate the small pleasures of life, please go watch this movie.

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Welcome To Sajjanpur