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Convincing: Preity Zinta and Vansh Bhardwaj in the film.
Convincing: Preity Zinta and Vansh Bhardwaj in the film.

Film: Videsh-Heaven on Earth (Hindi)

Direction: Deepa Mehta

Cast: Preity Zinta, Vansh Bhardwaj

The subject of domestic abuse is nothing new to cinema, but seldom filmmakers take the subject beyond the realm of objectivity. It largely remains the story of a subdued wife, who ultimately turns the table on her cruel husband.

Staying clear of the revenge angle, Deepa Mehta has opted to look at the issue with a soft focus. She brings out the duality in the nature of such husbands that keeps the abused confused. She couldn’t say enough is enough, as apparently she is not living with the same person day in and day out. At times he is caring, at times he is brutal. Deepa has taken a metaphorical approach to drive home the point, mixing Girish Karnad’s much acclaimed play “Nagamandalam” to an otherwise linear script.

The mythical sheshnaag and its moulting are symbolic of the husband’s dual behaviour. However, the chances of a layman comprehending this experimental blend are bleak. Things don’t remain cogent as the storyline moves between mythical and real. As we know, Deepa is strong in economy of expression and with her camera remains a neutral observer.

But here her strengths conspire to make Videsh a convoluted art piece with little mass appeal but something which deserves interpretation.

It is the story of Chand from Punjab, who flies to Canada to get married to Rocky. With dreams in her eyes and mother’s folk tales in her heart, she takes first steps in domesticity. However, as the title suggests Videsh turns out to be hell.

There are no villains. Yes, there is a mother-in-law feeling insecure with the entry of bahu but largely it is the circumstances, which play this part and pretty well. Deepa hints at the joblessness and immigration issues puncturing the notion that all is bright on the other side of the fence. Preity Zinta plays the Punjabi bride with a rare mix of dignity and vulnerability. Giving one of her best performances, Preity curbs her star appeal to bring out the obscurity, such women live in.

Debutant Vansh Bhardwaj is convincing as the husband who uses wife as a punching bag when life hits him hard. Give it a chance!

ANUJ KUMAR

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