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THE FILM has many good things about it — great cinematography (Santhosh Thundiyil), appealing art direction, stunning locations and some good performances — yet Twentieth Century Fox India Inc. presented "Pinjar" (Skeleton), fails to appeal emotionally.

Could be because one of the main characters essayed by Urmila Matonkar, just does not reach the levels of sensitivity required for such a moving story.

She looks good, but on many occasions kills the spirit with her melodramatic reactions. And that makes the film lag and move turgidly.

Adapted from a novel by Amrita Pritam, the story is stark, but compelling. It draws out the mood and feel of the time during partition and no matter how many Sometimes subtlety makes it work more effectively than obvious, overt expressions. And in many films, unless the characters talk loud and are highly demonstrative about their grief or happiness the makers feel the emotions cannot be conveyed. Which is where Urmila jars. Some of the scenes with her family bring the film straight into the Bollywood mould.

"Pinjar" delves into the plight of women during the partition era. They were creatures with no freedom or individuality. Family honour comes first, damn the woman's feelings!

Puro (Urmila Matonkar) is the beloved daughter of Mohanlal (Khulbhushan Kharbanda) from Amritsar. The family moves back to its village where the elders decide to get Puro married to Shyamlal's (Alok Nath) son, Ramchand (Sanjay Suri). All is well till Puro is kidnapped by Rashid Khan (Manoj Bajpai) to fulfil a long-standing vendetta.

She is kept for a few days in his house and when she escapes and goes back to her home, her parents beg her to go away as they fear a violent reaction from the Muslim neighbours. Shattered and broken, Puro finds Rashid waiting outside to take her back.

From then Puro wastes away. She marries Rashid, but is barely living.

Meanwhile in Puro's family, marriages take place. Her brother Trilok (Priyanshu Chatterjee) marries Ramchand's sister Lajjo (Sandali Sinha) and her sister, Rajjo (Isha Kopikar), marries Ramchand's cousin.

Puro, in the meantime, has to adopt Rashid's religion. She cannot forget her earlier life and yearns to be united with her family. In turn, Trilok unable to let go continues to search for her, much to his father's disapproval. When he does get some idea of who took his sister away, he burns the fields of Rashid — and Rashid does not want to retaliate, understanding the pain Trilok is undergoing.

It is 1947. Partition is declared and Hindu families are desperate to reach India. In the forced fleeing, there are many mishaps, including Lajjo being taken away by Muslims. In the camps set up for these people, Puro finds Ramchand. And he begs her to find his sister. Puro in turn pleads with Rashid to find Lajjo. And he finds this as an opportunity to redeem himself.

There is a reunion, for all of them, and Puro has to choose between her love and reality! Manoj Bajpai has never really found an opportunity after "Satya" to reinforce his brilliance as an actor.

In this, while he is possibly the best thing, it is not a performance that is unforgettable. But all told, his is the most understated work.

Most of the others are adequate, with Priyanshu and Sanjay doing very well too. Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi, the director, for whom it is a debut feature film probably needed to have a better grip on the narration.

There were many slow moments that detracted from the emotional pace, and perhaps had he chosen an actress of the calibre of say, Tabu, maybe this film would have hit harder. Yet one cannot help admiring the way he has put together a team that has brought out such a visually, beautiful film.


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