Thursday, July 26, 2007

Trikaal (1985) - A Review

One of the best things about the so-called parallel cinema movement in the 80's was the amazing variety of subjects that it chose to portray it’s cinematic idiom with. Moving away from the urban-mainstream clutter of boy-meets-girl themes and angry young man against entire corrupt system (although not in entirety), the film-makers chose to scourge the hinterland and look for something different, even unique.

Shyam Benegal's “Trikaal – Past, Present and Future” is one the most delightful of those films. I had seen this film several times earlier, on Doordarshan where they would show such wonderful movies from directors like Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Gautam Ghosh, Budhadev Dasgupta, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and others. Today with so many dedicated movie channels, does even one of them show those movies. I cannot recall seeing a benegal film (barring Bose, which was interspersed with so many ad breaks that it made the long movie seem longer and much more tiresome) or a Nihalani film (not even Thakshak or Dev which he made with big stars) for a long time.

Such were the treats of the pre-satellite television era.

The movie is a colorful atmospheric insight into the Souza-Sourez family pushed into a crisis by the death of the head of the family, Ernesto. The family is now under the head of the matriarch Dona Maria (Leela Naidu) who refuses to accept the death of her husband and attempts to bring back his spirit through a séance , which she conducts at least three times during the course of the movie.

Despite being led by Naseeruddin Shah, this film is essentially about cameos. And there are numerous. K K Raina as the false teethed, hen-pecked house husband, Anita Kanwar as the ever crying ever-sulking wife (delightful to watch), Keith Stevenson as the Doctor Pereira, Salim Ghouse as the priest. In fact the film features a veritable whos-who of actors, most of whom made a name for themselves in television. Neena Gupta, Jayant Kripalani, Soni Razdan, Akash Khurana and so on.

Most of the film revolves around............... well, nothing in particular. Come to think of it, it is no more a story than it is a slice of a life that has ceased to exist, as the elder Ruiz Pereira (Naseer) ruefully contemplates.(Even the roads that were used earlier aren't used anymore , as the cab driver informs us). The theme of a forgotten past recurs throughout the film. The old housekeeper refuses to divulge anything. The Souza-Sourez family house is itself in ruins.

Two or three other "themes" run in the movie. The fate of Portugese in post-independence Goa is brilliantly captures in the fears of the lead characters, who are faced in a dilemma whether to join the Indian Nation which they feel alien to or to go back to Portugal where they know they will face persecution because they are 'aliens' there. The character of Leon (Dalip Tahil playing a revolutionary) with whom the sympathies of Dona Maria (and the audience) lies, solves the dilemma for us.

Then there is the love story of Anna (Sushma Prakash). She is engaged to Erasmo (Lucky Ali, credited as Maqsoom Ali). However Anna has a childhood crush on Leon. To complicate matters, young Ruiz (Kunal Kapoor in an inspired performance) is head over heels in love with her and sings songs professing his love to her all through out.

Which brings us to the music. How many times in cinema do you see a scene in a film with four real-life singers playing parts. And if those singers be Remo Fernandez, Alisha Chinoy, Lucky Ali and Ila Arun. In these times even geting them on the same stage would be difficult !!!

Remo infuses the typical Goan charm through his love-ballads and his duet with Alisha in the engagement dance is a treat. Arun too gets to flex her vocal chords.

A movie which should be watched for the sheer joy of seeing all these characters come to life in the deft hands of Benegal!