By Subhash K Jha
Film: Rogan Josh (Short Film); Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Avantika Akerkar, Shishir Sharma; Directed by Sanjeev Wig; Rating: **(2 stars)
26/11 has spawned many works of art, some memorable, others chilling...some neither. This all-heart-no-substance short-film falls in the 'neither' category. It is big in intentions but falls flat in execution, as the IDEA of the tragedy underlining the plot overtakes the onscreen proceedings, which appear reasonably interesting, to begin with.
We gather in a few seconds of the pungent kitchen conversation with the wife (Avantika Akerkar) that Naseeruddin Shah is a master chef at a posh hotel. His specialty is the rogan josh. The entire family seems smitten by the mutton. But alas the telling of the grave story lacks gravy. The narrative is dry and self-conscious, as though the director's brief was to convey the grief caused by the attack on the Taj on that fateful November day.
The film is shot as a dinner table conversation. Lots of furtive anxious glances amidst morsel of the yummy meal. Some very fine actors are at work here. But with due respects to the mutton delicacy on the table, even the redoubtable Naseeruddin Shah has very little meat to chew on. He struggles to supplant substance to his shadowy role. But achieves precious little.
Naseer gets able support from the ever-dependable Shishir Mishra who is shown to be married (or are they just a couple?) to a young beautiful Muslim woman, played by the young beautiful Sri Swara.
(A word on this talented beauty: why is she largely ignored by our film industry?).
Further tension on the dining table. Naseer's character Vijay Kapoor doesn't seem to get along with his son Varun (Bhuvan Arora). Papa makes snide remarks. Son grimaces. Other dinner-table guests squirm.
Dinnertable conversations have been a classic stage for onscreen drama. But here the director has more on the plate then he can handle. In 17 minutes he crams in inter-communal relationships, parental distress, spousal trust, praise for punctuality and course the virtues of rogan josh.
By the time the twist in the tale appears on screen we know that the plot has been only a pretext to come to a point where a fatal statement on the 26/11 attack is tagged onto the characters who are probably tucking into the rogan josh even after the doom's day saga is done.
This film does nothing for the memory of those who lost their lives in 26/11. I do hope it helps make the mutton dish more popular.