Did Dhobi Ghat work for you? If yes, chances are you might just like Rajshree Ojha's Chaurahen too. Like Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat , Chaurahen-Crossroads too suffers from Indian characters speaking affected English while philosophising at length about pain, loss and death with stilted verbosity.
But if you are willing to overlook these issues most Indian English films face and the dated old-fashioned background score that tells you when you are supposed to feel sad, Chaurahen offers some genuinely heart-warming and poignant moments, mostly through the Kochi story involving Nedumudi Venu (he's such a fantastic actor that you wish there was a lot more for him to do here) and Chennai boy Karthik Kumar, who is a revelation, holding his own against the veteran.
This is easily the best etched of the four short stories in Chaurahen and the film's finest moment involves Karthik Kumar sharing a secret with Suchitra Pillai. You wish there were more of these understated moments that spoke volumes of what was unsaid rather than long-winded premeditations on pain and living with ghosts as alienated characters in dysfunctional family set-ups constantly share poetry and literature to keep flashing the film's arthouse badge.
While Victor Banerjee and Roopa Ganguly make the Kolkata story work somewhat, the Mumbai story is slowest, with nothing else except pretty and earnest Soha Ali Khan to keep us engaged. And the fourth story with Zeenat Aman is the weakest, almost slapped onto the film pretty late in the narrative as an afterthought to lend it some poignancy. But we know too little to actually care.
Visually too, there are at least a couple of moments that remind you of Kiran Rao's film and with a more modern soundtrack (like Dhobi Ghat ), this could've easily passed off for a sequel.
Ojha takes her own time to get into the story, revealing very little but mood of characters lost deep in their own world of issues they have trouble letting go of. It's never easy to watch a film where characters spend the entire length of the film vocalising their thoughts about how they felt about loss.
One could argue that we rarely see such indulgence in our cinema these days. It is quite a brave effort in that context and full points to the filmmaker for the attempt to make the film she believed in, no matter how many years it took.
Now that the film is finally out in the theatres after a decade since she started making it, Ojha may finally be able to let it go and get her closure. Watch it to support the effort to take the road less travelled just so that a few more young filmmakers dare to do so.
Cast:Nedumudi Venu, Arundhathi Nag, Zeenat Aman, Victor Banerjee, Roopa Ganguly, Kiera Chaplin, Soha Ali Khan, Ankur Khanna, Karthik Kumar and Shayan Munshi
Storyline:An anthology of three stories of people at the crossroads coping with loss, death and letting go.
Bottomline:Watch it for the Nedumudi Venu-Karthik Kumar episode