"Morning Raga"

"Morning Raga" ... Mahesh Dattani's story does not translate well on screen.  

LUMINOUS VISUALS and poignant music lull you into a sense of aesthetics. All is well till the characters start talking. That is when "Morning Raga," Mahesh Dattani, falls flat.

Perhaps most of Dattani's works would suit the stage better. On the screen, the product appears stilted and contrived not quite blending into a seamless whole.

The story is set in the rustic south with Carnatic music pervading the air. Perhaps in such an ambience, characters speaking in their own tongue with subtitles would have salvaged an otherwise interesting story.

The film spans two generations - of families who lived and lost.

The ambition of Swarnalatha (Shabana Azmi), a talented singer, is to sing before a huge audience in the city. She does get a chance and wants Vaishnavi, who has learnt to accompany her on the violin, to come along with her.

Swarna convinces her husband (Nasser) and the two women along with their sons (one each) board a mofussil bus to the city. Tragedy strikes and in an accident Vaishnavi and Swarna's son are killed.

Shattered by guilt and remorse she goes into a self-imposed exile never to sing again and never to cross the bridge to the city.

Time flies and Abhinay (Prakash Rao), son of Vaishnavi, is a musician making a living out of composing jingles for advertisements. But he wants to do something by which people would remember him.

He goes back to the village. His father would like him to take over farming but Abhinay wants to form a band to make memorable music.

His sojourn in the village also brings in contact with Swarnalatha and Pinkie (Perizaad) who has aspirations to be a singer with a past and is yet to come to terms with it.

She helps him to form a band and they go back to the city. Soon they realise that making Swarnalatha sing again holds the key to future plans.

None in the cast have made a huge difference to the story. Shabana Azmi is such a fine actress that films can actually rest on her shoulders. But apart from the fact that she has made an earnest effort to grasp singing Carnatic music hers is a pretty much lacklustre performance.

The boring and staccato dialogue just does not help. Prakash Rao has the looks of a man with plenty of angst, but for the better part of the film comes across wooden and blank.

Perizaad Zorabian is bubbly and believable but not when she enacts her singing portions especially when done with such false cheer. Nasser is acceptable. But then when the entire dialogue appears so disconnected, the actors don't have scope for histrionics.

Mani Sharma and Amit Heri have done a wonderful job of the songs and background score.

The camera finds the most beautiful moments even in a field of ploughed soil. Full of lustre cinematography by Rajeev Menon discovers niches and corners and vast spaces enriched by the vision to discover charm even in the most overused subjects of visual imagery.


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