Sunday, January 22, 2006

Shaapa (2000)

Featuring: Ramesh, Anu Prabhakar, B C Patil, Ashwath, Avinash and others.
Directed by: Ashok Patil

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” goes the popular saying about making sure children are dealt with an iron hand so that they become responsible and ethical individuals when they grow up. But parents seem to redefine the meaning of that saying on various conditions. When they start blaming the children and ill treating them physically and emotionally for everything that has gone wrong in their lives, then the saying no longer has any relevance. It has become abuse.

Shekhar (Ramesh) is a victim of such an abuse from his atrocious father (Jai Jagadish). Shekhar loses his birth-mother when he is born and as is the sickening tradition the child has to bear the brunt of it. His father destroys Shekhar’s morale by becoming a looming negative influence in his life. Unfortunately for Shekhar, the love he finds in his stepmother (for once portrayed as a loving and caring person unlike the usual cliché) soon leaves him as well. For everything that goes wrong with Shekhar’s father, Shekhar is blamed for the same.

Years roll by. Shekhar’s father dies. But does the abuse and mental torture that he subjected a helpless Shekhar to die with him? No it does not. In fact it starts haunting Shekhar everywhere he goes. He even tries getting help from a psychiatrist (Avinash in a small but interesting role) who reassures him that his belief of ‘everything-I-touch-will-be-mud’ sort of anti-Midas concept is wrong. Shekhar believes he has a curse on him and the story of how that ‘curse’ influences Shekhar is the core of the movie.

Shekhar is hungry for love. True and genuine motherly love. A love he was depraved of in his childhood. A love that he has never really known. His sister (yes he has one) makes a brief appearance as a widow wondering if she should get remarried but then she is never mentioned again. This is one thing I hate about movies. When vital family members of the protagonist are introduced then please take care of their ‘whatever-happened’ factor. Helps keep the realistic feel of the script and does not look forced.

Just when we feel that Mr.’Love-is-not-in-my-stars’ Shekhar is a total loser, he finds Kaveri (Anu Prabhakar). She is a doctor who also has a strong moral center. She helps out the needy and is involved in many social activities. It is love at first sight for Shekhar babu considering he needs someone he can depend on to get rid of the negative shadow his father has cast on his conscience. Kaveri and Shekhar hit it off almost immediately. The chemistry between them becomes friendship and translates into love. Of course, as is the age old tradition of commercial cinema, neither of them is able to proclaim the same. Another cliché I never understood. He is a coffee powder businessman and she is a trained doctor. Both professions require a lot of ‘mind-reading’ for any kind of success yet it does not extend to love!

One thing leads to another and they get separated from each other. While Shekhar leads a life wondering where she vanished (makes one wonder how neither of them had heard of telephones, letters, addresses, e-mails etc) she returns back after four years. He runs into her again, thanks to a familiar flute note that she had taught him, and old sparks rekindle. He realizes she is still unmarried and very creatively proposes his love to her. Ms.’Oh-you-are-late’ Kaveri confesses that she too had similar emotions for him but now….any guesses? Yes! Wow…you people are very good. Now..she is engaged to Ravi.

Enter Ravi (Mr.B C Patil) as a ‘need-to-use-Tamil-in-my-dialogs’ Madras returned super chap. Initially he seems nice and tidy but once he and Kaveri tie the knot ( Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge ‘pleasing-the-bride’s-dad’ track here) we realize he is a super jerk. A money hungry engineer who is out to spin some big ones with his doctor wife, Ravi starts showing his black and dark black sides. Shekhar’s inner demons keep calling out to him in the form of his father. He is tempted many times to get Kaveri back at all cost but the good side inside him keeps stopping him from doing so.

This is the one aspect I liked about the movie. The Karnataka-Tamil Nadu Kaveri river dispute has been used as a metaphor in Shekhar’s life. He starts connecting what he is seeing in the news about that dispute to the war that is on in his mind. ‘naavu kaaveriyanna biDodilla” reads grafitti on the walls of the city while Shekhar is thinking the exact same thing. The evil within Shekhar continues to grow until he explodes.

What decisions he makes and how they become consequences is what the remaining part of the story revolves around. Maintaining my traditional not giving away all the scenes I have kept the good parts for you to watch.

Ramesh is brilliant as a man who is struggling with his inner evil. There are scenes where he murmurs during conversations with a lot of realistic effect. He emotes at the right times and holds the story well together. He never raises his voice once and keeps the character totally focused and in a sober tone. Anu has done a commendable job as the yearning doctor who regrets not taking more initiative with Shekhar. One of the best lines she had in the movie was her last one. She could not have meant it more and for the ones who know what it should sound like…it remains long after the movie is over. B C Patil is his usual arrogant self. I have always considered him an average actor with a lack of emotional quotient and he proves me right again. Ashwath, Avinash and other seasoned players lend apt support in their peaking scenes.

Music is good to the ears with the pick being ‘Manase Manase…’ Some songs could easily have been edited since they do not add any power or essence to the story. The first time director Ashok Patil has tried to potray this movie as a ‘musical’ but I am not so sure. Music is relevant to the story but only in a small amount. The real core is the look he takes into the human psyche and how it behaves. Technically the movie is well shot with a range of colors in the scenic Madikeri area. Sunset and sunrise seems to be a vital part of the story to set the mood.

On the whole ‘Shaapa’ succeeds in holding the audience’s attention till the very end. The suspense and underplayed melodrama is in right amounts to make it look more real. I would definitely recommend it to those interested in such entertainers.

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