Malaal Movie Review: It Is Memorable For Its Purity Of Soul

Malaal

Starring  Meezaan Jaffery, Sharmin Sehgal

Directed  by  Mangesh Hadawale

Rating: ****(4 stars)

He counts the  numbers  of  steps she walks from the bus top to her home in the chawl.She  counts the number of missing  buttons in his shirts and holes in his vest.East or ‘vest’,  Shiva  and  Astha, played by two  enormously talented  newcomers  Meezaan and Sharmin, are diehards romantics,  the  kind that would easily die  for love.

 There is a purity  of the heart and a sublimity  of the soul in  this love story, a remake  of  the  beautiful but melodramatic Tamil hit  7G Rainbow ColonyMalaal  wins  you over  not by  being persuasive  but simply letting the love grow organically from its natural environment,  in this  case a Mumbai chawl shot with  a glowing raging but restrained  passion by cinematographer Ragul Dharuman who sees  a glimmer  of hope in every shot but refuses to romanticize squalor just to amplify the sentimental  value of  the story.

The  courtship, love and what ensues between  the  couple thereafter  is  captured in  a gentle waves of empathetic  exuberance, as though  the director Mangesh Hadawale(remember his  earlier  notable films Tingya and Dekh CircusDekh?)  wants  to believe  in the feasibility of love to heal all hurt, as much as we do.

The young actors  playing the lovers are so  fresh appealing and unshackled  by  guilt, we are  gradually swept  into the  rites  of  their romance: the  initial rebuffs  by  the  girl, including a humiliating stalking allegation in a  bus where the passengers thrash  the  boy. Meezan’s  Shiva More takes  it all in his stride, the  snubs, the  fleeting kindness, the  sheer  challenge  of convincing the girl he’s convinced he  loves her  for life,  and beyond.

The scenes between Meezan and  Sharmin are  beautifully detailed and  nuanced. Sanjay Leela  Bhansali’s music  goes a long way  in conferring the  courtship and  passion with a resolute  realism.I was specially enchanted with a flute passage used for a pre-climax  love-making sequence. It  is so rare and  precious, I felt I was  being sucked into a world of  spiritual romance where the bodies become irrelevant the way  they rarely do in love-making scenes  of India cinema.

While Hadawale stamps the romance with his  delightfully pickled Maharashtrian touches(watch out for  thescnenestealing Marathi actors)  I could easily make  out  Sanjay Bhansali’s influence  in the colourful songs and dances where Meezan dances like  a dream. There is practically nothing that this  debutant can’t do. Indian cinema  has got a new star.

Sharmin Sehgal is  a stand-alone discovery,  totally unaffected by influences she  lets her strong-willed character  take over her personality .

There are  many episodes of sheer  poetic  glory in the narrative. There’s magic  in the way Shiva looks at Astha. Words  become  the least  relevant  tool of communication. There are also some very powerful sequences with  older members  of  the  cast. A sequence between Meezan and his screen  mother(Chinmayee Surve) where she  wishes her son not to have a loveless marriage like hers,is  so effectively written and enacted  I felt I  was watching a film far greater than any in the love genre.

I finally  came away from  the  film with the  thought that there  was  nothing  new in the  romance in Malaal. There is  never is. It is in the way Meezaan looks at the love of his life that Malaal will keep you  invested  for  far longer than  its two   hours  of playing-time.

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