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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Adrushya, Review: Invisible man meets blind twins

Adrushya, Review: Invisible man meets blind twins

In the last two decades, Marathi films have thrown-up some real gems. They have also not fought shy of experimenting with both form and content. We have been treated to some films that were rooted deeply in Marathi culture and ethos, while there were others with more universal themes. Non-Marathi speaking producers, directors and writers have made their way towards Marathi filmdom, with varying degrees of success. Directed and co-written by a name that is non Marathi, and a cinematographer-turned-director making his debut, this remake of Los ojos de Julia (Spanish; Julia’s Eyes; 2010), with a dash of, perhaps unintentional, Wait Until Dark (1967), is not the best debut that he could hope for. While making a psychological thriller, the makers of Adrushya (Invisible) have left gaping holes in the narrative, leaving the audience tight-rope walking between a psychological thriller and a supernatural, and the film is rescued, only partially, by the performance of the leading lady.

For some reason (and I believe it is a sop/grant offered by the government), the film is set in Uttarakhand, where it begins with a business conclave chaired by a Maharashtrian, and consists of several other fellow Maharashtrian. Soon, it moves towards the story of twin sisters, Sanika and Sayali, who suffer from progressive blindness. Sayali is already blind and Sanika has lost 20% of her vision. Sayali is soon found dead, hanging by a rope. The consensus is suicide, due to depression about her eyes. But Sanika suspects this was a murder. Her husband also subscribes to the suicide theory, but agrees to help her investigate the murder angle. They make inquiries with a neighbor, a very old blind woman, and another neighbour and his daughter. Sanika finds some clues and takes her husband to a honeymoon resort hotel, where she believes Sayali stayed with her boy-friend. There, a waiter seems to have some evidence. And then she finds persons dying one after the other, and her own life is in danger.

Contributing the screenplay himself, Kabir Lal has the services of Nikhil Katare and Chetan Kinjalkar as dialogue writers. Little was needed in terms of original writing, and if there is some original writing indeed, it only complicates the issues, instead of simplifying it. Dialogue is a mix of Marathi, Hindi and English. How did so many Marathi-speaking personnel land-up in Uttarakhand, is beyond belief. A couple of persons do speak Hindi, not good Hindi at that. The suspect is shot below his neck, always, leaving little doubt that he is the culprit. An eye surgeon has within his premises a mortuary, with embalming facilities! There are many more gaffes, but listing them here will take away what little suspense the film might hold for the viewer who wants to have a go at Adrushya.

Doe-eyed Manjari Fadnnis in the double role is a treat to watch, whether she is wide-eyed and wonderstruck, or blind and terror-struck. Pushkar Jog makes a soft, understanding, compatible husband. Saurabh Gokhale as the mentally disturbed perpetrator looks really menacing and single-minded in his behavior, as the role demanded. Both Pushkar and Saurabh are of medium height, and Pushkar has been gymming since the film was made, it would appear. Both were present at the screening held at InOrbit Mall's INOX multiplex, at Malad, suburban north Mumbai, on 20th May.

Veteran Usha Nadkarni is cast in a role that is a perfect blend of black and white, and she does it with élan. Anant Jog, another old-timer, with his features, makes a natural negative character, and is used as such. Inspector Deepak is played by Ajay Kumar Singh, whose talent must be inspected. As the hotel maintenance man, Sanjay Bhadane is made to behave rather spookily, for undisclosed reasons. Routine to below par support is provided by Shravani Abhang, Ashok Palwe, Shyam Bhimsariya, Kavita Tripathi, Garvit Singh, Pawan Kumar, Nikhil Kumar Singh, Vishal Kumar Singh and Nirmal Jani. Special mention must be made of the ‘blind’ girls Hemangi Surve, Harshada Patil, Pranjali Kanzarkar and Dipinti Bhobaskar, who never let you feel that they are anything but fully blind. Interestingly, Chetan Kinjalkar, joint dialogue writer, puts in a cameo as a waiter.

Kabir Lal does not go behind the lens himself, having concentrated on writing and directing, though he has worked as a cinematographer on more than 100 films, across Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. These include Pardes, Apne, Yuvaraaj, and Welcome Back. That should have allowed him to avoid those loopholes that are strewn across the narrative of Adrushya.

His son, Syed Shahid Lal, makes his full-fledged foray as cinematographer, making it the third generation. Kabir’s father, S.S. Lal was a DoP. Shahid assisted his father for four years, and the commendable results are there for us to see. Editor Sanjay Ingle gives us the usual jump scares and fleeting shadows, which are never explained. Amar Mohile’s symphonic background score is a highlight of the film, with a theme allotted to every character or every scene, enhancing every moment when it is heard. Produced by Ajay Kumar Singh and Rekha Singh (non-Maharasthrians, one could wager) have produced the film, which took over three years to reach the screens.

You could go to the cinema where Adrushya is being screened if you are hungry for something different, only don’t come out scratching your head and rubbing your eyes as you try to sight the invisible.

Rating: **



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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