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"Pitaah" ... Bollywood potboiler in a rural ambience.

FOR YEARS Bollywood has been wedded to the Mother. Right from ``Mamta'' and ``Mother India'' to ``Aradhana", ``Sanjog", ``Amma'' and ``Maa", there have been more Bollywood tear-jerkers than hankies in town can take! Hence Bollywood turns a new leaf. And turns to the Father.

In the 1970s, there was Mahmood's ``Kunwara Baap". And more recently Mahesh Bhatt discovered ``Daddy'' dear in all of us.

Suddenly Bollywood realised that fathers too have a role to play in the life of their children — much before Amitabh Bachchan wondered aloud why a father cannot express love for his children in ``Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham".

Then came Subhash Ghai's ``Yaadein''— that Jackie Shroff dream project which never was. It was a rare film where the mother dies leaving behind three daughters in the lap of the father. ``Yaadein", however, was forgotten before Subhash Ghai could announce his next film!

But Father refused to die. No confession time here, but Mahesh Manjrekar's ``Pitaah'' — which was released this past week — might just recover a small part of the ground he lost with tales of a cerebral palsy-afflicted child and another one of a budding athlete late last year.

New Year may just bring new joy to the man who is endearing at his best. And tolerable when close to his worst. Here he sails between the two streams.

``Pitaah", with Sanjay Dutt in the lead, may not leave behind many progenies but it will gladden a few hearts and keep the viewers engrossed almost till the climax, which is somewhat convoluted. What will go in its favour is the fact that after a long time, a Bollywood potboiler comes with a perfect rural ambience.

Only a couple of mujras. And many meek men who work for a thakur who brooks nothing short of complete obedience. Seen it? Can see it again simply because the thakur here is not a rapacious landlord alone out to fleece his peasants but one who turns the proverbial Nelson's eye to the indiscretions of his sons.Youngsters, after all, are like that only.

Given to sowing wild oats and leaving lovely maidens to reap the whirlwind. All that until they lay their hands on the nine-year-old daughter of our hero. Then, first the law-keeper, then the law-interpreter and then the otherwise law-abiding doctor have to be won over. All for a few lakhs.

That's all it takes to keep inconvenient mouths shut, a few greedy palms greased. Until, well, as the catchline goes, they test a father's patience too long.

Manjrekar's violent film is on expected lines. The fare runs on perfectly `normal' lines of a formula film. But with some slick editing Manjrekar is able to weave together a tale, which holds interest for a large part.

Sanjay Dutt as the father gives a polished performance. It is the kind of performance which stands out when one realises that the role had enough mundane matter to be lost amid sundry similar roles of an avenging avatar as a hero. Nandita Das as his wife is there in almost every frame. She gets to do little beyond cower away with her children. Om Puri plays a lead villain after some time with elan. And Jackie Shroff? Well, the film might belong to Sanjay Dutt but do look out for Jackie's nuances as the utterly corrupt police officer who knows what he is doing.

All said and seen,``Pitaah'' may just win over a few sons of the soil.


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