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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. 



Kashi—In Search of Ganga, Review: Searchomania and Schizophrenia

Kashi—In Search of Ganga, Review: Searchomania and Schizophrenia

Suspense thriller it could be. It is not. Search for a sibling it could be. It is not. A film that takes the audience for a royal ride, it is. A classic case of the script and the direction tying up the story in knots, and then, not knowing how to unravel the Gordian knotty, only getting naughty and clever by half.

Lucknow-based journalist Devina meets Kaashi in Kaashi (another name for Varanasi or Banaras) and takes an instant liking to him when he rescues her from the antics of a holi reveller. She visits him and takes a dress as a gift for his sister. As she is taken around by Kaashi on his scooter to do her story on Banaras, gradually, they fall in love. Kaashi belongs to the Dom community and his job is to perform rituals at the funeral pyres burning along the banks of the river Ganga, considered the most holy form of cremation.

One day, Devina tells him that his sister Ganga has not returned from college and it is rather late, so his parents are panicking. The two rush to the college, but only find a professor and a student in a compromising position. Through a girl called Shruti, the two learn that Ganga was having an affair with a fellow student, a politician’s son, and was pregnant. Outraged, Kaashi goes to the house of the politician and threatens to kill both father and son. The two then learn that the son is holidaying in Mussoorie, and head for the hill-station. Using trickery, they trace the son to a hotel room, where Kaashi is shocked to see another woman with the man. In a fit of rage, Kaashi hurls the man from the hotel’s terrace, resulting in his instant death. But whatever happened to Ganga?

The above synopsis is told from a neutral point of view. Any other way, and it will be full of spoilers. Film theory suggests that the narrative either take a neutral point of view or let the audience know what or whose point of view is being shown. Yes, you can cheat, but there has to be a damn good reason and the cheating too has to be convincing. Neither is the case here.

Manish Kishor (writer) and Dhiraj Kumar (director; Elaan, Sabse Bada Mujrim) use whatever point of view suits them and reveal the truth only in the climax, blaming it first on a maniacal search and then on schizophrenia. Also, there is no redemption for anybody, and the closest it gets is a vindictive murder at the very end. This allows no sympathy for any of the characters, many of who use each other to further their own ends.

Halfway through, the film turns into a courtroom drama, and the false climax that takes place in the court makes mockery of the audience’s IQ. Another crucial scene, wherein the boy confesses his love for Ganga to his father, takes us viewers to be gullible fools.

Sharman Joshi as Kaashi Chaudhary shows anger at the drop of a hat, but is uncomfortable with the dialect and the range of emotions. He shows no chemistry with Aishwarya Devan (Devina), and both manage to just keep their acting talent in the passable zone. Govind Namdev as the politician has been there and done that a gazillion times. Kranti Prakash Jha as Babina plays a negative character after Mithila Makhan, where he played the lead. Akhilendra Mishra and Manoj Joshi are cast as opposing lawyers and are often unintentionally funny. Manoj Pahwa as the judge manages to remain in character. Mugdha Meharia impresses as Shruti while Priyanka Singh is likeable as Ganga.

Like the titular Ganga that is elusive and untraceable, so is logic and rationale in this film.

Take a dip at your own risk.

Rating: * ½


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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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