Wednesday, October 19, 2011
While no one can put a stop to ageing (the world is still waiting for the chemical formula), coming of age is an arduous job. It is a journey like no other, which is more psychological than literal. Unfortunately history tells us that the best men, more often than not, get made only after facing a lot of hardships and going through personal losses. Maybe it’s a small tax that they have to pay on their path of self-discovery and conquest.
Govind Nihalani’s Vijeta is a movie that emphasizes on the above fact and explores human relationships through challenging times. It is basically a story of guy’s journey from boy to man, and how he conquers his doubts and apprehensions to emerge victorious in life. The movie has been produced by Shashi Kapoor, and stars his son Kunal Kapoor as the protagonist.
Vinod (Shashi Kapoor) and Neelima (Rekha) form an estranged couple, who despite their differences live together for the sake of their only son Angad (Kunal Kapoor as a young surd). Vinod is in the entertainment business, while Neelima is a housewife who is highly involved with her pursuits in classical music (This deep involvement suggests a void in her life that she is trying to take care of). One day Angad, their son, returns home after leaving his boarding school. Utterly confused about what to do in life, and highly troubled by the shaky relationship his parents share, Angad feels that his life is completely worthless and confesses contemplating suicide in front of his mother (with whom he shares a friendly relationship, contrary to the acerbic one that he shares with his father). Neelima’s young brother (and Angad’s uncle), a Naval officer, takes Angad to stay with him for a few days. During his stay with his Uncle, Angad finds life in the armed forces highly disciplined, challenging, and adventurous, and decides to enter the National Defense Academy to train for becoming an Air Force Pilot.
Soon, after countering the initial resistance to the idea posed by his father, he enters the Academy and settles into a new regime that throws more challenges at him that he anticipates initially. Thus his journey ensues, and how along the way he forms new bonds- finds few friends for life and finds love, and how his success in life helps resolve the issues between his parents, is what the movie is all about.
The one thing that striking about this movie is its authenticity. Be it the manner in which human relationships are depicted, or the way the life at the Defense Academy is showcased- everything is done realistically and nothing is over the top. Even the love story between Angad and Ana (played by a young Supriya Pathak) is unconventional in the way it has been handled on screen- minus any melodrama and the usual kitsch associated with Hindi cinema. There are many sequences that deserve mention-right from the initial ones involving Shashi Kapoor and Rekha, to the pre climax when Angad is at the front fighting the 1971 war. Certain scenes are so powerful that they can be easily included in the best shot scenes ever in Indian cinema. One such lengthy sequence is at the Air Force training academy when the handling of an in flight glitch is depicted wonderfully. When one contrasts it to one such scene in the latest movie ‘Mausam’, one can only feel highly impressed by the way Govind Nihalani shot the scene almost 30 years ago without using the kind of digital technology that is at the disposal of the directors today (incidentally, just struck me, Supriya Pathak is another connection between the two movies).
This movie is embellished with truly remarkable performances, led by Shashi Kapoor and Amrish Puri. The latter is, in my opinion, the greatest character artist ever in our movies, and the respect for the former has grown leaps and bounds in my eyes after watching this and Junoon (both unconventional movies produced and backed by him). The people who play Angad’s friends are all very efficient, and so is Rekha, in a complex role that required much emoting but no histrionics (again unconventional by usual standards). Om Puri, who plays Angad’s Uncle, is effective in an extended cameo. Supriya Pathak is damn sweet in her portrayal of Angad’s love interest, and I wonder why she didn’t do better as a mainstream actor. The only one who disappoints a little is ironically the main lead- Kunal Kapoor, for whom this movie was a kind of launch vehicle. Maybe in an effort to remain restrained, he is surprisingly insipid and dull in many scenes, and does not enforce himself on the movie at all. He shows flashes of talent in a few sequences, but overall, it is not hard to understand why he was not a success as a mainstream actor after watching this movie where he was handed a role of the lifetime by his father.
Parting Note: This movie is a must watch for many reasons. One- it is a technically brilliant film that has a strong theme and an engaging storyline. Two- it is an unconventional take on human relationships, the kind is realistic and at the same time has tremendous entertainment value. Three- it shows life in the Air Force, and the growth of an individual as he progresses through the various stages of his career in the defense forces. And lastly, it is an ode to the human spirit, undying and relentless in its pursuit of acceptance, peace, satisfaction, and victory…
P.S. A poster of the movie, that did not care to even slightly depict its central theme. Commercials trappings hard to eschew completely in the big bad world of Bollywood.