Monday, December 30, 2013

The World According to Bauji: "Ankhon Dekhi (Before My Eyes)" (2013)



Deciding to reject everything you have assumed in life, and only believing what you experience physically, is a strange way to live. Is the Earth round? Maybe, but you only see flatness. Is there a God? Perhaps, but where are the miracles? Rajat Kapoor gives us an entertaining story of one man's rejection of his own world.

Bauji (Sanjay Mishra) is the patriarch of his crowded household that includes his wife Amma (Seema Pahwa) and children, as well as his brother's family. After his daughter Rita (the beautiful Maya Sarao) is forbidden to see her new boyfriend Ajju (Namit Das), Bauji and his friends decide to go to the young lothario's home to rough him up and keep him from his daughter.

What they find at Ajju's house is a nice young man terrified that these men have forced their way in and want to harm him. Bauji is changed by this. Ajju is nothing like he was told, and Bauji decides from then on he will only believe what he can see and experience personally. His family is thrown into tumult as he quits his job as a travel agent (how can he book passengers to fly to cities he has never seen?), and eventually acquires a group of followers. They sit around his house, and quiz him, first to laugh at him, then to learn from him. Chacha (Rajat Kapoor), Bauji's brother, moves out, and a rift develops as Bauji uses his new philosophy trying to solve everyday problems like his son who is flunking math, and another family member who is suddenly in debt to a gambling house.

Kapoor writes, directs, and costars in this nice little fable. It rarely goes outside of the family's small group of rooms, but Kapoor does a great job of keeping things moving. In fact, this could easily be adapted to play on the stage, the themes are universal, and many observers will be able to relate to Bauji.

Sanjay Mishra is wonderful as Bauji. He is soft-spoken, and as an actor, he doesn't call attention to his character by chewing the scenery or stealing scenes. The progression of his mocking, then worshipping, disciples is nicely handled. There are light touches mixed with the pathos, although some of the subplots wander in their own direction and get lost. Kapoor's screenplay lurches off the narrative path here and there. I could see a Hollywood remake of this starring Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey, and going the goofball route. Kapoor should be applauded for digging deeper, and not insulting the viewer's intelligence with dumb situations.

"Ankhon Dekhi (Before My Eyes)" had its world premiere at the South Asian International Film Festival earlier this month, and is definitely worth a look. This is one of those films that you are sad to see end (in a memorable climax), but Bauji and his outlook will stick with you. (* * * *) out of five stars. Watch this film now!: Ankhon Dekhi (English Subtitled)