Director: Sudheer Mishra
Cast : Shiny Ahuja, Kay Kay Menon, Chitrangada Singh
I’ve always felt it very difficult for the medium of cinema to essay the complexities of real characters, and even if it does, it takes over-the-top situations to communicate to the moviegoer. It’s easier for an author, who can spend pages describing the nuances of characters, their thought processes, justifications of their actions and so on. I haven’t seen many films that have successfully done justice to its characters as human beings with different shades. Especially in Hindi cinema, where every character is either black or white, and sometimes, there’s the clichéd “gray shades” treatment, which is not close to what I’m talking about.
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi is one such film that delves into many hues of a human character. I finally got to see it after 2 years of its release. I’ve come across appreciations galore for this movie, and, I should say, I’m very impressed myself.
This film takes us back to the 1970s, an era when our generation did not exist, but also an era which is, perhaps, the most defining period of Indian politics after Independence. Based in New Delhi, the hotbed of political activity, Hazaaron… introduces its three characters from the first scene. In 1969, Siddharth (Kay Kay), Geeta (Chitrangada) and Vikram (Shiny Ahuja) go to the same college. Siddharth comes from a bureaucratic family, his father being an officer in the Indian civil services. Through Siddharth’s family, we are exposed to the bureaucratic class of society, who had not shed their English ways even after three decades of Independence. Entrenched as India still is in the problem of its ever-growing highly-paid bureaucracy, these officers were removed from their countrymen for whom they were working. For a country worshiping the teetotaler Mahatma Gandhi, these officers were more British in spirit, drinking, partying and intermarrying. Children of such high-ranking government officers went to expensive boarding schools and knew only to speak in English. Siddharth is one of them, and perhaps because of his over-exposure to such things immoral and unethical, he is inspired to work for rural India, to upgrade the conditions of farmers, to fight for the rights of the poor and to make India a better place to live in. Geeta Rao is the daughter of a middle-class South Indian family settled in New Delhi. Geeta is beautiful, smart and intelligent, with men courting her, most prominently, Siddharth and Vikram. Vikram comes from a middle-class family living in a small town in northern India. He is down-to-earth guy with small-time political connections. His father is a Gandhian.
The story begins when college finishes for the three. Siddharth decides to go to Bihar and work for the farmers there. Geeta goes to London for higher studies. Vikram makes a career out of using his several contacts and his PR skills. He becomes an agent, getting people to talk, making contracts possible, doing the groundwork for any political deal being struck.
Cut to four years later, 1973. Vikram is a successful man in New Delhi. He has flourished in his occupation and continues to do so. In a party for bureaucrats, he spots Geeta, now married to a government officer. Seeing Geeta after all these years, Vikram’s old flame re-ignites. He tracks Geeta’s visit to Bihar and discovers she is still having a clandestine affair with Siddharth. Later in the film, Geeta divorces her husband and joins Siddharth in his social work. Siddharth, now, is a part of the Naxalite movement – a movement that set the eastern states on fire in 1970s. Thousands of young men joined hands to wash away the deep-seated corruption in the country. As happens with any such movement, it became violent, gory and murderous. The government dubbed the Naxals as terrorists and thousands lost their lives in police firing, encounters and in jail.
Coming back to the film, the turn of events comes when Emergency is declared in the country and the political system collapses. The police now has a free hand to arrest and kill Naxals without documentation. Geeta and Siddharth are arrested in Bihar. Vikram is out to search for his friends and free them of their tribulations. And this search of his brings us to one of the best-orchestrated climax ever seen.
Informed of his imminent death at the hands of the police, Siddharth is ready to use his father’s contacts. He rants out important telephone numbers, names, anything that will get him out of this ordeal. On the other hand, Vikram, who is leading a secure and influential life in New Delhi gives it all up and plunges into the riot-torn state of Bihar only to wipe the tears off Siddharth’s father’s face. The paradox is too much to bear – that someone who has lived his life in social service with brave ideals and grit of mind becomes a coward in face of death and someone who has thrown morality to the winds gives himself up to save the life of a friend.
Hazaaron… is a wonderfully made film. Though some of the dialogues and costumes seem very up-to-date with our times and the technical quality is not very good, this is a film that will touch the audience deep within. It made me wonder as to how unpredictable we can be, how strong are our ideals, and how flimsy are the opinions we have of people around us. Kay Kay has always acted well and Shiny Ahuja gives a superlative performance and has won awards for it. But perhaps the most credit goes to Chitrangada Singh. I haven’t heard of her before, and if this really is her debut movie, I have to say she’s brilliant. Being the central character of Geeta around whom the story revolves, one cannot think of anyone else playing the role.
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi ends with a mentally-maimed Vikram in the arms of Geeta with the sun setting on the Bihar countryside. The image stays with you long after you’ve switched off the screen. It is a pang of how ironically ugly reality can be, but also a hope of how true ideals never die a silent death and how the torch of noble work is still glowing with Geeta.