By Archana Rao
“Tu kisi rail si guzarti hai, mein kisi pull sa thartharata hoon…”
Set in the backdrop of Varanasi, Masaan is a movie packed with powerful performances, soothing music, and a stunning story line that will sink into your bones. It might not be able to compel you to visit the ghats of the Ganges, but Masaan will surely make you rethink about the stereotypical notions revolving around the place.
The first 15 minutes of the movie will take you on a roller-coaster ride which dives deep into shock and sadness. Aroused by the curiosity to know more about love, relationship, and sex, Rani (Richa Chadha) decides to meet her Facebook-friend-turned-boyfriend Piyush Agarwal (Saurabh Chaudhary) in a hotel and gets intimate. But the plan goes horribly wrong when the police breaks into the room. Piyush, in a bid to save himself, locks himself in the bathroom. Meanwhile, a lady constable holds Rani by her hair as the Inspector (Tewari) films her. While the police threatens the duo with arrest and possible jail term, the young lad commits suicide. The body of Piyush being dragged out of the bathroom eventually leaves Rani befuddled and devastated.
The simple lives of Rani and her Sanskrit Pandit father Vidyadhar Pathak (Sanjay Mishra) turn into living hell when the corrupt cop threatens to upload the video on the internet in a bid to extort money out of them.
In a parallel story line, another life at the ghat unfolds. Deepak Chaudhary (Vicky Kaushal) is a civil engineering student by day and a cremator by night. Standing on the pedestal of youth, Deepak falls in love with the pretty and perky Shaalu Gupta (Shweta Tripathi). Soon love blossoms between the two through shayaris and Facebook, leaving the audience in awe and amusement.
This is the last moment the viewers get to experience a soothing sense of happiness, love, and hope for a happy ending. Deepak soon comes face-to-face with reality regarding his future with Shaalu. He belongs to a lower caste pyre-burning family whereas his better half belongs to the upper caste. Their determination to stay together encourages Deepak to garner a well-earning job. But destiny too turns its back as Deepak’s love story comes to a halt amid tragedy and loss.
Meanwhile, Rani’s father is struggling to gather money to pay off the cops. This is when the character of Jhanto, a feisty orphaned boy, becomes relevant to the story. With the consent of Pathak, Jhanto engages in the dangerous coin collecting race in the river. The gambling paves a way for Pathak to earn some money but it too meets a horrible end.
Eventually, both Rani and Deepak feel suffocated in the small-town-narrow-thinking Varanasi and decide to leave the place, with their memories behind them. The characters cross each other’s path at the end, leaving some hope and solace for the audience.
Masaan lives up to its hype as it has a lot to offer through its story on life and death, loss and tragedy, and eventually moving on. Director Neeraj Ghaywan has done a tremendous job and has explored the city of Varanasi like never before. The brightest star in the movie is not Richa Chadha but the newcomer Vicky Kushal who nails his performance. The simplistic looks, the local Banarasi dialect, and strong expressions make Deepak’s character more lovable. Pankaj Tripathi’s brief cameo is refreshing as he plays the character of a railway employee stuck in a menial, boring job. The shayaris by Brij Narayan and soundtracks by Indian Ocean are hauntingly beautiful as they leave sweet melodies in your ears.
Dushyant Kumar’s visually evocative poem, Tu kisi rail si guzarti hai, main pull sa thartharata hoon, is both magnificent and heart-breaking, leaving an expressive philosophical whole in your heart.