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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. 



Ekkees Taarekh Shubh Muhurat, Review: Marry-go-round

Ekkees Taarekh Shubh Muhurat, Review: Marry-go-round

Set in the Hindu holy town of Mathura, with only old faithful Sanjay Mishra in the non-star cast, Ekkees Taarekh Shubh Muhurat (21st, an auspicious date) is the sleeper that wakes you up, the mouse that roared. Slice-of-life characters, with only the occasional over the top comedy, keep the film anchored to the ground and the audience entrenched their cushioned seats.

Girdhari Lal Sharma (Sanjay Mishra) is a priest-turned-mythology-storyteller in Mathura who has no money and no followers, but he wishes to get his daughter Radha (Kajal Jain) married to her beau, Gopal (Mahesh Sharma), shop-keeper’s son, with full pomp and splendour. To get the money, he tries to convince his younger brother to buy out his share in the ancestral property, but the brother refuses. After exhausting all options, including taking a loan, he decides, on friend Bulaki (Brijendra Kala)’s advice, to marry off his son Banwari (Chandrachoor Rai), who is waiting for the result of his Indian Administrative Service (IAS) exam, and use the dowry thus collected for his daughter’s marriage. IAS officers get cushy government jobs, like those of Collector, and command a premium dowry in the marriage market in many parts of India.

But dual problems face the Pandit: his son is not yet an IAS officer, so he gets proposals from either bankrupt families or from women running massage parlours, even a widow and her mother (Ria Chanda, Kamalika Banerjee) from Kolkata. Soon enough, the results are declared, and Banwari passes. Now the second group of problems surface: at least three families want him as their son-in-law: brigand Robdar (Mukesh Tiwari), Inspector Samajhdar Singh and the local Legislator. And none of them will take no for an answer. Robdar has, in fact, kidnapped both Banwari and Gopal, and will release them only if Sharma agrees to give his son in marriage to Robdar’s feisty daughter Munni (Bhawna Chaudhary). One has been hearing of such incidents in Bihar for the better part of the last 50 years. Is it prevalent in Uttar Pradesh too?

A family of four, a grandfather, the priest, and his two children, they barely survive on the earnings of the daughter, who is a school-teacher. But she’s of marriageable age and has found her life partner. Unable to arrange the necessary funds, Sharma has postponed her marriage four times, even after the wedding cards were printed. Now, they have an auspicious date: the 21st, and he is bent on getting her married, even if it means going to jail to achieve his sworn object

Director Pavan Kumar Chaudhary, who hails from Moradabad, not very far from Mathura, used to be a broadcast journalist, and the subject of his debut film has been developed with echoes from ground realities in Mathura and elsewhere. He takes a while to let the ambience sink in, which is not such a good idea because the film is only 97 minutes long, and the second half moves at a frenetic pace, to reach the complex climax. Several social evils are touched upon, like corruption, kidnapping, politician-police-Legislator nexus and widow remarriage, but no easy solutions are offered. You are convinced that if you were living in Mathura, at least some of the characters seen in the film would be either your neighbours or they would pass you by on the streets.

Sanjay Mishra takes off from where he left in Angrezi Men Kehte Hain and goes up a notch higher. You might also recall the Manchanda of Friday, released in October. He has such a flexible face and eyes that swell on demand at the word “Action”.

Kamalika Banerjee impresses. Mukesh Tiwari, Bhagwan Tiwari and Brijendra Kala are type-cast, but they go with the character. Kajal Jain, Chandrachoor Rai and Mahesh Sharma are competent. Ria Chanda makes a comely Pankhuri. Anjanikumar Khanna as the Legislator (Vidhayak) is a bit over the top.

Ekkees Taarekh Shubh Muhurat is not a great film, technique-wise or in terms of profundity of screenplay. It has several messages, some sugar coated, some raw and in your face. But the very first shot establishes that comedy is going to be the narrative style. Sharma begins his kathaa-vaachan and a young boy downstairs exhorts passers-by to come up and listen to him. Upstairs, it’s an empty hall. Cinema-halls, by comparison, should have most seats occupied for long enough to brand the film above average.



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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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