Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 4, 2020

Yatra review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:04 pm

May 04, 2007

Cast: Nana Patekar, Rekha

Director: Goutam Ghose

Also at the cinemas this week is respected Bengali filmmaker Goutam Ghose’s Yatra, which stars Nana Patekar as a celebrated novelist who’s invited to the Capital to receive the country’s top literary award for his latest work.

Making the journey from Hyderabad to Delhi, the novelist comes into contact with a young movie-director who’s a great admirer of his writing, and who’s hoping to adapt the new book into a film. The writer and the filmmaker spend the most part of the journey talking about the book, more specifically about the female protagonist of the story, a true-life character whom the writer encountered himself.

Now, the narrative of this film jumps between the present and the past, the plot flirts with both fact and fiction, and on one level the film can be interpreted as a social comment on how consumerism has replaced spirituality in today’s times.

But the problem with Yatra is that it’s too disconnected from reality, and it makes no attempt to hold the viewer’s hand and guide him through this labyrinth tale. Let me confess, sitting in that hall watching this film was hardly a pleasurable experience because it’s a jigsaw that’s hard to piece together.

I think that you’ll agree that over the years we’ve almost stopped using the term ‘art film’ because we’ve found more suitable and more accurate replacements. Words like ‘realistic cinema’, ‘sensible cinema’, ‘non-mainstream movies’, ‘middle-of-the-road films’ – these words seem much more appropriate when it comes to discussing pictures that are non-formulaic, films that don’t feature big stars, and movies that derive their plots from real life itself.

However, when it comes to describing Yatra, I think I’m going to go back and use the word “art film”, because it’s really a very personal work, one that’s non-linear in structure, but most importantly because the filmmaker doesn’t seem to particularly care about the fact that it’s mostly indecipherable — the viewer is really expected to interpret it in any way that he can.

Now I don’t have a problem with art films, with someone’s personal expression, but I would like to be able to figure out the director’s intention after I’ve seen a film. With Yatra, one can only guess what Goutam Ghose was trying to convey, you can’t be certain, because even after watching all two hours of it, you’re still flapping about trying to make sense of what you’ve seen.

No review of Yatra can be complete without discussing the performances of its three lead actors. Nana Patekar as the idealistic novelist is a tad indulgent, but that blame has to be shared with the film’s writer-director for giving him those stream-of-consciousness passages that bore you to death. Then again, Nana adds a few of his own pearls, the kind of lines that make you cringe. A lecherous politician can’t take his eyes off a young girl’s cleavage. Spotting this, Nana asks him, “kyon, maa ki yaad aa gayi?”

But the piece de resistence is unarguably Rekha who plays the nautch girl Lajvanti, the protagonist of Nana’s award-winning novel. The actress hams it up and delivers such an embarrassing performance, you want to beg her to stay home rather than pick such parts.

There was a time people felt nobody does a mujra song better than Rekha, and that was absolutely true. Her dances in Umrao Jaan and Muqaddar Ka Sikander are still held up as the best mujra performances on screen.

But now, years later playing the courtesan again in Yatra, she doesn’t bring the same passion that she did then. I understand one has to make allowances for age and fitness, but where’s the mischief in the eyes, where’s that aankhon ki masti that she was so famous for?

Of the principal cast it’s only Deepti Naval, playing the novelist’s dutiful wife who comes off unscathed but that’s because she’s a Hindi movie cliché – the silently-suffering housewife.

At a little over two hours, the film is far too long, it’s also pretentious and indulgent, and it’s an unworthy follow-up to the director’s previous films. There was an elderly lady sitting beside me in the cinema watching Yatra and for the longest time I thought she’d stopped breathing because I didn’t see a single reaction from her.

She didn’t shift once, she didn’t get up in the interval, she didn’t bat an eyelid. I think she may have been stunned in silence. Anyway, I’m going to go with one out of five and a thumbs down for Goutam Ghose’sYatra, it’s not the kind of film I’d recommend on an evening out. Sure, give it a shot if you have a taste for the odd and the esoteric, but if you want to go by my word, then this Yatra is not a journey you want to take.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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