Director Rajat Kapoor is known to locate his films between genres and it’s the same with his Ankhon Dekhi. It is as much a slice of life as it is metaphysical. His cinema doesn’t work between established notions of right and wrong as he loves exploring the quirks of his characters. Sometimes it doesn’t translate and remains a Mithya, but this time he has found his voice as he tries to find answers to cosmic quandaries in a seemingly mundane joint family in Old Delhi.
A small incident triggers a thought in Bauji’s (Sanjay Mishra) mind. From now, he will believe only what he sees or experiences. A travel agent in the Walled City, his physical experiences can reside in a match box but what about the sounds and fragrances around him. For him life has been a chore and now he wants to think out of the syllabus.
At first when he questions the fruitiness in fruit, the chairness in chair his family and friends feel that he is joking, when he persists with his quest and even resigns from his job they feel he has lost it but when he continues with his experiment they slowly start seeing a sage in him.
Rajat, a student of Mani Kaul and Kumar Sahani, brings Jacques Derrida to people who don’t know that they are deconstructing reality. His rooted characters are trying to hold on to their world when everything around them is changing rapidly. On the surface Bauji might appear eccentric but he asks questions that stop us in our tracks. They are real and global and create an interesting tapestry of humour and philosophy as Bauji, first plods and then sails through existential crises. At times it appears that Rajat won’t be able to sum this up but he surprises leaving us with a lump in the throat.
For a change here is a film that shows a part of Old Delhi without the overriding Punjabi flavour. Shot in an Old Delhi haveli, Bauji’s house is a character in itself. There is so much going around him that you wonder how Rajat, Resul Pookutty (sound) and Rafey Mohammed (cinematography) managed to capture this chaos with such clarity and how these endearing snapshots of life were put together in an order by editor Suresh Pai. Every character is well etched. Seema Bhargava as Bauji’s wife never becomes a caricature of the nagging wife. Maya Sarao, Taranjeet, Namit Das, Brijendra Kala and Manu Rishi all look the part of the same world. Not to forget Rajat who plays the pragmatic younger brother of Bauji. But it is Sanjay Mishra who is the tour de force of the film and could well be the second Queen this March.
Director: Rajat Kapoor
Cast: Sanjay Mishra, Seema Bhargava, Rajat Kapoor, Maya Sarao
Storyline: What happens when a middle-aged common man decides to believe only in what he sees.
Bottomline: Cinema at its whimsical best!