Director: Sohail Tartari
Cast: Ashutosh Rana, Sikandar Kher, Gul Panag
Storyline: Five medical students go to a village for compulsory service; soon the focus shifts to the silent agrarian crisis gripping the nation
Bottomline: Not to be missed
Debutant director Sohail Tartari dares to tread where others have quivered. His ‘Summer 2007’ is on the surface a film about urban youth, five medical professionals who speak the way they do on the campus. But actually, this is a rare, no, rarest of the rare Hindi film that talks of the silent agrarian crisis gripping the nation.
Farmers’ suicides may not make the headlines with the media drunk on the success of Dhoni’s boys or seeking rising TRPs with the Aarushi murder, but Tartari talks of the Vidarbha crisis where many farmers have ended their lives due to their inability to pay an amount many well-heeled families back in our cities spend on an evening out with friends.
A shade didactic
There are moments where Tartari gets a shade didactic, just as there are times when he adopts a quasi-documentary approach. For too long it seems we are watching yet another campus saga with its overgrown boys and girls, doing their political stunts and mouthing innuendos. But those are little foibles one would allow Tartari.
In fact, he takes a routine campus story — five students of a private medical college who indulge in banter and even enter the battle of the ballot for a lark — but lifts the film head and shoulders above it with a neat twist. The asides on capitation fee done with, Tatari sends his students to a village as part of compulsory service. The rich brat pack is not averse to buying their experience certificates either. They might be in a village for service, but of course a short trip to the beaches of Goa cannot hurt!
All until they come face to face with a ground level depression. It is a world where the moneylender, a mahajan, a sahukar, is king. The MNCs have not reached, nor have the Government’s efforts fructified. Little water, no electricity, hardly any means of transport. The farmers are in debt, sometimes due to poor produce, at others because the system does not allow them to keep much.
Tartari desists from taking constant pot shots at the system, preferring to develop the story smoothly. The vicious circle comes through without too many hiccups in the second half though. And the young guns — Sikandar Kher, Gul Panag, etc — acquit themselves with credit.
However, it is Ashutosh Rana who as a village doctor steals the scene. He is wily, he is human; he is ambidextrous.
Tartari’s end result may not be as commendable as his intent. The item number, some of the lingo, come across as a farce. But there are times when he makes all of us feel uncomfortable, even guilty. And makes us put uneasy questions to ourselves: Is our relative richness built on the corpses of the poor? Is urban India shining while the real India is bleeding? Despite its obvious flaws of technique and editing, this cinema takes us back to the days of Shyam Benegal-Mrinal Sen-Goutam Ghose and others when we had films such as ‘Manthan,’ ‘Paar’ and ‘Khandhar.’ ‘Summer 2007’ may not have their brooding intensity, but it has the right perspective. Watch ‘Summer 2007’ in June 2008. And act quickly because a little delay might just prove costly.ZIYA US SALAM