‘Barah Aana’ superbly highlights vulnerabilities of migrants(IANS Film Review; Rating: ***)

March 21st, 2009 - 2:20 pm ICT by IANS  

By Subhash K. Jha
Film: “Barah Aana”; Director: Raja Menon; Cast: Neseeruddin Shah, Vijay Raaz, Arjun Mathur, Tannishtha Chatterjee; Rating: ***

A mellow, mirthful and at times moving story of three north Indian migrants, “Barah Aana” may not be the ideal idea of an evening out or even an entertainer. But for a discerning audience, this tale of tantalizing possibilities brings in a sense of un-visited surprise.

There are three main characters - a quiet driver Shukla (Naseeruddin Shah), a watchman Yadav (Vijay Raaz) and a waiter Aman (Arjun Mathur) - all driven to the doors of despair but stopped in time by a self-directed sense of humour that saves them from self-destruction.

The story gathers momentum when the trio hit on an age-old formula for survival - crime.

Superbly scripted by Raj Kumar Gupta, who recently directed the riveting “Aamir”, “Barah Aana” derives its strength from the frailties and vulnerabilities of the three migrant characters who seem to be drawn into the dark side of life without knowing where they are heading.

Debutant director Raja Menon seems to view the people in his plot with a reasonable degree of detachment. There’s a sense of riveting finesse in the way these unsophisticated characters chart their course without self-pity.

Of course the film would have never worked without the cast. What does one say about Naseeruddin Shah without sounding completely like a fan? He’s seen in two totally different avatars this week.

Naseer’s bullied, embittered and silently-seething driver’s part in this film is as distant from his disoriented classical maestro’s role in Nandita Das’ “Firaaq” as only he can make them.

Vijay Raaz, always in top form when given to play a man who has seen life without rose-tinted glasses, gives a sly snarling spin to his role. His performance has both bark and bite. Watch Vijay play the watchman.

The youngest and most inexperienced member of the trio Arjun Mathur, seen in a sensitive part in Zoya Akhtar’s “Luck By Chance”, has a tough time holding his own against Naseer and Vijay and also holding his Bihari accent in place. But he nevertheless leaves a positive impressive.

Another great performance comes from Tannishtha Chatterjee. As the flamboyant Rani, she shocks you after her quiet performance in “Brick Lane”. She should be seen more often.

With a message on the plight of migrants, “Barah Aana” would hardly appeal to multiplex audiences. Films on lives of migrants usually score high as cinematic works but low on mass appeal.

One must say that Preeti Sethi’s camera goes through Mumbai’s lanes with the least fuss. See “Barah Aana” for its terrific cast, first-rate production values and the director’s firm grip on the grammar of grassroot politics.

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