Movie Review: ANKHON DEKHI (2013)
Sometimes when the premise for a story is set up within a film, straying from it can make the story lose credibility and in turn, the audience’s interest. However, if the premise is something that can never be practically held on to in the first place, it becomes part of character development within the story and creates a secondary plot point. ANKHON DEKHI is such a movie, where the premise is set up, faltered, and moved on from all the while telling a story that’s rich in character and reality.
Blank Page Rating: 2 out of 5 Roaring Lions
ANKHON DEKHI centers around Sanjay Mishra’s Bauji, the patriarch of your run-of-the-mill middle class extended family with everyday problems. After a misunderstanding based on others’ hearsay, he decides to question everything that he believes, by vowing to never trust anything other than what he experiences or sees with his own eyes. It’s a simple premise, but the character is a flawed old man. The story follows Bauji as this vow affects other areas of life, like his family, his ability to do his job as a Travel Agent, selling tickets to destinations he’s never been to, even affecting his religious beliefs. His vow attracts followers to his cause, some due to intrigue, some to ridicule and others who just have nothing else better to do. While there’s logic in his approach, it’s downright silly… but the silliness works in the setting as the character a polite and simple man, who latches on to the one thing that seems to make the most sense to him at the butt end of his life.
Bauji is really a cute old man, who can be downright grumpy and mean spirited. It’s a career changing performance for the character actor who thus far has only been seen in comic relief or side roles. Bauji is a simple man, but a complicated character. Mishra has to play him with the confidence of a man who thinks he know what he’s doing, as well as the simplicity of an old man, the frustration when he’s ridiculed and the sadness of his predicament.
The movie isn’t set out to change opinions, or even convey a message or moral, but is just a story about the lives of Bauji and his family and the fluidity of the concept of truth and beliefs. Our society is based on the honor system or truth telling and following rules, where the consequences are in effect, only if you get caught. So to have a character that questions everything unless otherwise personally experienced first hand is almost noble. But ANKHON DEKHI brings us back to reality with the family members who are frustrated, embarrassed and even ashamed of his behavior.
Director and co-star Rajat Kapoor does a brilliant job with a simple, almost go-nowhere movie that, if for nothing else, is enjoyable to view for the shock value of the consequences of a vow such as this. Known for his amazing supporting roles in Indie & international crossover films, Kapoor is great as the more modern younger brother of Bauji, who wants to get out of the extended family living situation, and have a home with his own wife and child. This causes conflicts between the two brothers, and further exposes Bauji’s old-fashioned mindset, despite his new found approach in life. It would be a double standard for other characters, but Bauji is set up as a man conflicted within himself, so it’s believable and his anger is understandable.
ANKHON DEKHI isn’t a masterpiece of cinema, at times slow, and just plain uninteresting, but it’s ultimately a simple story about the lives of these realistically mundane people. Traditional Indian family values are in effect conflicting with an absurd premise, some interesting sub plots and just an endearing little story.