Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Well this one is considered one of the classics of Indian cinema and is a favourite with many movie lovers. Despite knowing this, I was pushing back watching it for some reason or the other. Last week I finally decided to take the plunge and watch this tragic melodrama starring Sridevi and Kamal Hasan. And post viewing it, I was certainly left with mixed feelings.
Written and Directed by Balu Mahendra (a famous South Indian director), with dialogues by Gulzar, ‘Sadma’ is not your regular romance flick with a dash of melodrama thrown in. I think most are aware of its premise- a young upright and honest fellow giving shelter and care to a mentally challenged girl, and in the process falling in love with her.
Kamal Hasan’s plays Somprakash (Somu), a lonely guy who is a teacher in a private school based at one of the idyllic settings in the hill station Ooty (Karnataka). He is a self-sufficient fellow- he lives alone, cooks his own food, and does his own chores. Moreover Somu’s morals are not fractured, and he is loyal to his boss whose young second wife (Silk Smitha) makes direct passes at Somu almost every other day. His life takes an unexpected turn when he visits a city brothel at the insistence of his friend, and meets Reshmi (Sridevi). He finds Reshmi to be a strange case. Although a grown up woman, Somu discovers that she has the disposition of a six year old child. She talks, behaves, laughs, and cries like a kid, and Somu for his life cannot fathom how she got stuck in a brothel. He decides to help escape the place and ends up taking her with him to his place in Ooty. How the two grow closer, and become indispensible for each other over the course of time, is what the movie is all about.
The story is unconventional- but it is actually the characterization that is the highlight of the movie. The characters of Somu and Reshmi are extremely well etched out and the director knows exactly how to present them. Their personalities are a study in contrast; while Somu is a taciturn and stolid fellow with a great strength of character, Reshmi is all that Somu isn’t- playful and joyous. Thus the child-like Reshmi ends up filling the void of loneliness in Somu’s life and the two end up sharing a lot of bitter-sweet moments that form the best moments of the film too. As the narrative progresses, it incorporates two delightful and soothing songs by Gulzar and Ilayaraaja-
“Surmayee Ankhiyon Mein, Nanha Munna ek Sapna De Jaana”
“Aye Zindagi, Gale Laga le”
The climax of the movie is one of the most heart-wrenching you would ever see, and I think it is this climax that takes the movie from being just a good watch to being a must watch in most people’s eyes. However I feel that despite all the good things that this movie boasts of, it also has some serious embarrassing moments and does not escape the trappings of pleasing the front benchers of those times. And for me, because of this a lot is taken away from the overall impact of the movie- The entire Silk Smitha track is cringe worthy, and there is also one hideous song sequence between her and Kamal Hasan. Similarly the character played by Gulshan Grover with all his typical villainy complete with over the top glaring and lustful staring at the lead heroine is a complete put off. There is a mandatory action scene too, where the school teacher assumes a superhero avatar and jumps into a twenty feet deep pit to bash the villain. Frankly, all these things take the focus away from the central theme of the movie and add unnecessary minutes to the run-time.
Kamal Haasan delivers a first-rate performance and reinforces his credentials of being a terrific artist. His act in the last few minutes of the movie is considered one of his very best and might have actually decided the National Award in his favour. Sridevi’s performance appears a touch overdone. In some scenes I thought she was really irritating and did not manage to the embrace the cuteness and innocence her character required. But maybe she was just following the Director's vision, and that’s what he wanted from her. Silk Smitha, the film's other important character, just irritates with her in your face raunchiness and over the top expressions. The director tries to bring a touch of sensibility to her track by adding a dash of the lonely-young-wasted second bride theme.
Parting Note: While Sadma is certainly a good watch, and is notches above the regular entertainers Bollywood dished out in the 1980s, in my opinion is not exactly as perfect a film it is made out to be. Good-of course no question, but great- I don’t think so…