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"Let's Talk"

I WONDER if this film should read as Lets Think About It, or maybe Lets Figure This Out, or perhaps Lets Just Get On With It. This is not to say that this is a bad film. No, not at all. Quite the contrary. Its just that the director has made such a detour from the routine and the expected with a style that is refreshing, that perhaps the contents could have been something less exasperating? As genres go, Shringar Films release, ``Lets Talk," is a film that has been shot in the digital video format and 90 per cent has been done with a hand held camera (Sumantra Ghosal). Which makes it very personal with the camera sparing none and nothing. Everything looks like it is when anyone is sitting around and talking, the rough edges notwithstanding. Visually, its not exactly appealing, but then that is not the intention in the first place!

The film was first shot as a scratch for the artistes to know how they were going about. The first version was shown around for reactions and then many rehearsals and changes later, it was shot again till the final came to the screen. As far as the artistes are concerned, this helped them to adapt to roles that were not acted, but lived out. It is realistic enough not to use the English language in a stilted manner, but in a way most urban Indians speak it. Radhika Sarin (Maia Katrak) tells her friend Rita (Anahita Uberoi) that she is pregnant. As Rita whoops with joy and starts congratulating her, Radhika sourly tells her that it may not be Nikhil's. That's how the film begins. Two friends talking casually about this momentous news! It does not come as any big deal and before the audiences start on the judgment mode, the film quickly takes viewers through the fertile imagination of Radhika who visualises the possible reactions Nikhil would have, if told the truth. From agony, to sarcasm, to anger and acceptance, the episodes unravel through Radhika's mind dissolves and flashes making up the film in its entirety. There is no conclusion, no catharsis; just about no telling what reality would be like.

Infidelity is an issue that has probably become passé. It has always been there, never really talked about openly. It has been dealt with in a very matter of fact way here, which is fine, but then so much discussion even though it is the film maker's style of presenting a work, becomes boring. Frankly, by the end of the film, one doesn't really care what Nikhil or for that matter Radhika, goes through with such an act. It is probably the last straw for a tottering marriage and the indifference that creeps in in many cases after much togetherness.

The director draws parallels in his narration to the classical thumri (music direction - Ram Sampath) which is sung in a multiplicity of variations - while one does not get tired of the elaborations in a thumri because the melody is invariably so beautiful. The same, however, cannot be said of the visual expressions. Nikhil walking around in a towel is hardly an aesthetic sight to behold! And as for the symbolic comparison with the eternal lovers Radha and Krishna (through the images of a television story of the sighting of Lord Krishna and the tableaus by devotees of lord Krishna), it is contrived, unless of course the director is being tongue in cheek about it. What is really beautifully done is the beginning of the film when the letters written by the two before they married, are visually brought to life. And the other wonderful thing in the film is Boman Irani's performance as Nikhil. As the typical middle-aged, loud, Punjabi husband, he is so realistic. You end up feeling bad for him - not because his wife has strayed, but because he is being put through so many reactions. Maia is tolerable when she talks about her problem, but grates when she weeps — after all, the deed was done with her fully aware of the consequences.

There is nothing really moralistic about having a relationship, but should one sniffle and be so defeatist about it? In the director's own words — ``Why must plots be so linear? Why must subtext be text? Why cannot the structure of the film be based on a form of music? Why can't the theme of the film be Indian? Why can't it be about the Radha Krishna myth? Why can't the film be about small things? Why can't the film be about words? Why can't life be represented on screen? Real life as it happens around us? Why can't a film have three people and two locations?" Well, why not? Ram Madhvani, ad filmmaker, has done all this and more in his first feature film. But for that streak of cynicism that one may have, one feels like saying, why does one need to make a film at all?

CHITRA MAHESH

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