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Bheed Is Much More Than  A Film





Directed by Anubhav Sinha

Rating:***** (5 stars)

For my time  and attention, Anubhav Sinha is the finest contemporary filmmaker of  Hindi cinema. He makes the films that he wants  to .Whether  the audience participates  in his compelling creative process(Mulk, Article 15) or not(Anek) Anubhav is fine with it.

Bheed  comes  too close to the actual  trauma of  the Lockdown for comfort.Assuredly this masterpiece  on  a real palpable  immediate  chunk of history  makes us uncomfortable, as cinema  was always  supposed to.

But then we  decided we wanted our cinema  to be a song-and-dance nautanki.Anubhav Sinha, God bless his  fearless soul, decided with Mulk to move away from the bheed, no pun  intended.  Look where he has reached now!  Bheed is our own Schindler’s List.And I don’t mean just the black-and-white photography which  could have been somewhat gimmicky in lesser hands.

Sinha and his incredibly  articulate  camera person (Soumik  Mukherjee) use the  b&w palate to tremendous efficacy to let us  know how desperately  bleak  the  scenario was  at that time when all gates were shut on thousands of migrants as they tried to reach home.

Na ghar ka na ghat ka….Anubhav Sinha  doesn’t drill into the despair of these  foot soldiers as  they trudged home  for days without water and  food (and yes, sanitary napkins)  for  tears. There is   no room for sentimentality  in this saga of  survival by instinct.

Come to think  of it, this is  the best survival story ever. It has the inherent drama,the  emotions, fireworks  and mutinous  undertones. Why then doesn’t it feel  like  drama?

Sinha keeps  it  restrained. The writing  by Anubhav Sinha, Saumya Tiwari and Sonali Jain  is neither sensationalized nor politicized. The  events unfold as  though  foretold,but nonetheless there is  sense  of shock at the misery we see  of the migrants.  Sinha shoots the  mobs  with vigorous  energy and  yet there is  an inherent sense of dread  and despair in the individual faces whenever the camera  zooms in on an occasional  random  face.

As I think back  about the  film,  I see the  narration as  a collage of  vibrant  images of pain and tragedy. But I also see True Cinema in the profound authenticity that Sinha injects into every  scene.

I could  write  a separate  essay on the actors,big or small, minor or major they are all brilliant. Special mention must be made  of Rajkummar Rao who plays the caste-conflicted guilt- ridden cop Surya Kumar Singh trying to figure out what to do with the hordes  stuck at the border.There is  a moment where he is pushed to the ground, his face frozen in what  wlooks like  wooden  stake…it reifies hundreds of years  of persecution of  the lower castes.This is Rao’s best in years.

Bhumi Pednekar as Surya’s girlfriend Renu  is feisty and yes, thirsty, as only she can be. Special mention must be  made  of  Pankaj Kapoor as Balram Trivedi  a watchman on a rampage , Ashutosh Rana as  a police inspector whose bitterness when his parents  cannot get beds in a hospital, spills  over in his workplace.

Aditya Srivastava  as Ram Singh,a  cop who  wants to  milk the  crisis for  money(and why not!)  and Dia Mirza as Geetanjali a privileged woman  trying to reach her daughter in boardingschool before her  husband, leave a  mark .

My favourite  sequence involves Geetanjali and her driver Kanhaiya (an absolutely self-effacingly brilliant Sushil Pandey) when they encounter a  girl  trying to cycle her sick father to safety. While Dia shrieks   her  empowered  position, Kanhaiya reminds her that she needs him more than he  needs her.

This is what  makes  Sinha  so special.No filmmaker  in India understands  and  projects  the  power dynamics of  class and caste  in India as effectively  as Anubhav Sinha. For this  alone, we are  indebted to this master storyteller who tells it like it is. Take  it or leave it.

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