'Mantra' review: Desi underdog, menacing MNC

Desperate times: At the centre of the collapsing universe is a man trying to hold things together (played by Rajat Kapoor), but resigning to the march of time.  

Mantra would work much better on paper — as a short story, novella, script — than it does as a film on screen. There is a lot going on —thoughts, observations, ideas — about how the economic liberalisation of 1991 comes to affect a business, a family, friendships and an individual in 2004.

There is the clash of the old and the new business sensibility. A business facilitated by banks and babus paving way for the one run on venture capital and private equity, about implicit trust giving way to watertight contracts and about the multinational Kipper buying out the small player King Chips in the market.

Then there is the dysfunctional family that fights more than it talks, that is about individual goals and disillusionments than common pursuits. And there are friendships torn asunder due to misunderstandings. At the centre of the collapsing universe is a man desperately trying to hold things together, but eventually resigning to the march of time and circumstances.

It’s much the same with the actor who plays the role. As K.K., a businessman going bankrupt, an inadequate father and husband and a friend who tends to bear grudges rather than forget and forgive, Rajat Kapoor gives it his all in a fine character study of isolation and obsolescence.

But the film itself fails to reciprocate the gesture. There is more ebb in the telling than a flow. The series of scenes and episodes feel disjointed and static than surging dynamically into each other. Some of the scenes feel way too self-righteous and deliberate, like KK being dwarfed by mountains of Kipper chips boxes in the godown or the talk of development with the camera zooming in on the poor taking shelter under a flyover.

My biggest takeaway from the film, however, is a word: anhedonia, a disorder/condition in which you are unable to derive pleasure from the usually enjoyable activities.

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2021 4:29:30 PM |

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