Starring Ram Gopal Bajaj, Pankaj Tripathy, Samir Kochar, Rohini Hattangadi, S M Zaheer
Directed by John Upchurch
Rating: * ½(one and a half stars)
15 minutes into this appallingly uninspired view of the historical and cultural divide that splintered India into two uneven halves, and I knew this was a foriegner’s view of the communal divide as seen through the prism of a generation gap. But there is a bigger problem.A worse chasm separates the noble intentions of this film’s director(probably a diffident apologist for Britain’s imperialistic designs) from the actual execution of the plot which reeks of amateurishness and clumsiness.
Making matters worse is the chosen language , that halting English which the Indian middleclass speaks when trying to push its way up a crowded queue.
Only the Babus are likely to be impressed by the director’s benign take on India’s polarized proletariat. The central figure in an octogenarian Dr Amit Singh(Ram Gopal Bajaj) who has a terrible childhood secret that he must grapple with before the film is don. But before Dr Singh gets down to confronting his ghosts from the past the actor must resolve the issue of speaking in an out-of-character language.
Dr Singh’s life is framed in selfconscious bouts with his friend (S M Zaheer) and an NRI son(Samir Kochar) who can’t decide whether he cares for his aging father or is just in it for self-opportunism. Even the script seems confused on that score.
Worse incongruities await the scrambled anointed script when a Muslim autorickshaw driver jumps in with his own backstory and frontal farce . That the very dedicated Pankaj Tripathy plays the Muslim auto driver who takes the doctor on an “unforgettable” road journey(or , so the film would like to believe) is providential . Pankaj succeeds in making the trite stereotypical Muslim character a bit of fun in a film so tightly-wound it feels like a self-important propaganda film, sinfully sanctimonious, sickeningly holier-than-thou.
Except for a heartening cameo by Naseeruddin Shah which is a case of too little too late, the narrative is tightly wedded to triteness and prone to bouts of selfdoubt that reflect themselves in episodes of hellish mediocrity.
If the truth be told Mango Dreams is a cinematic equivalent of that nice well-behaved boy in class who wants to be the prefect every time. Utterly bereft of spontaneity and warmth this could be one of Indie cinema’s most shuddery products.
I am shaken by the mediocrity.