Gour Hari Dastaan: The Freedom File - Of grit and grace

Genre: Biopic/ Drama

Director: Anant Mahadevan

Cast: Vinay Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ranvir Shorey, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Rajit Kapoor

An old man goes up and down the stairs of the institutions of the world’s biggest democracy for a freedom fighter certificate that he believes rightfully belongs to him. No it is not ‘office office’ or Bhootnath’s travails in the other world. No, Das didn’t form a political party, nor did he sit on a dharna or thought of picking up the gun. It is not Utopia, either. It is a real struggle of a little known freedom fighter, painstakingly brought to screen by Anant Mahadevan.

For more than three decades Das grappled with his own government within the framework of the system. His is a struggle in silence. He doesn’t take to streets, doesn’t look for a leader and doesn’t even knock at the doors of the judiciary. Even his son doesn’t support him. Help comes in the form of an old school journalist Rajeev Singhal (Ranvir Shorey), who is also looking for his identity in the corporate media set up where a newspaper loves to describe itself as young, where every pen pusher is in a hurry to become an editor before 40, where old is easily passed off as obsolete.

No, it is not a Go Gour Go kind of film. It is kind of film that quietly cleanses the dust that has collected on our idea of freedom. What we are, what we have become. It comes out in the scene where an agent tells Das that left to him he would have bribed his way to freedom. It pricks and festers.

But Das is a kind of man who doesn’t show his wounds. In cinematic terms he is a boring man. But the way Mahadevan and writer C.P. Surendran have given him life on screen is noteworthy. The two have contrasted his warmth, his positivity with the ice-cold cynicism that we carry to office and bring back home. They have made history relevant in times when a video game becomes outdated in a year, a film in three days.

And then there is Vinay Pathak who finally sheds the skin of Bharat Bhushan (of Bheja Fry) and dons new clothes. From expression to gait, he surrenders himself to the role and strikes the right note without any overt attempt to reach out to the audience. He reflects the optimism of a man who believes in his truth but also knows that he is pushing against a wall. He carries this struggle through the film till the scene when the jailor in Balasore finds the diary. There the way he crosses his arms and his eyes say, ‘see, I said so’, it generates a lump in the throat.

Though she remains in the shadow of Pathak, Konkona brings her skills into play as the supportive wife. Like Pathak, she has also perfected the walk of an old woman.

At times the comments look adsorbed on the surface particularly the seemingly misogynistic journalist’s tirade against feminism. At times it seems Mahadevan is trying to put a halo behind Das which doesn’t go with Surendran’s writing and Pathak’s performance. But most of the times the observations are ingrained in the narrative. The most telling statement of the film comes when Das says that British India was better because at least he knew who the enemy was.

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Printable version | Nov 23, 2020 7:25:15 AM |

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