Revisiting Neeraj Ghaywan’s Magnificent Masaan As It Completes 6 Years
Is Neeraj Ghaywan destined to be a one-film wonder?
Like J D Salinger and his Catcher In The Rye. Or Margaret Mitchell in Gone With The Wind. Closer home, what happened to Shimit Amin after Chak De? He did make Rocket Singh Salesman Of The Year. But who remembers it? After the stunning Neeraj Ghaywan has made two short films Juice(with Shefali Shah in a stellar performance as a housewife spending hours sweating in the kitchen over her husband’s guests) and more recently Geeli Puchchi a brilliant portrayal of gender and caste politics set in the bleak bosom of the working class.
- Neeraj Ghaywan was an assisted to Anurag Kashyap before he made Masaan. There is no trace of Kashyap in Neeraj Ghaywan’s style of filmmaking which is gentle and persuasive. You will never find Ghaywan becoming ill-tempered in his vision of inequality. Masaan is not an easy film to ingest. It sucks you into its world of characters doomed by caste and ruined by wrong choices. The main protagonists are played by Sanjay Mishra,Richa Chadha and Vicky Kaushal , actors whose deep link with the middleclass helps them to manoeuvre their characters in and out of thre trauma and anguish that the under-privileged classes are perpetually subjected to. The caste system is smacked on its head before it proceeds to smack all of us in places where it hurts the most.The young lovers played with an unspoilt naturalness by Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathy, build an atmosphere of lulling gentleness around the plot that shatters to bits as the script moves to a zone of unexpected explosion.Splintered lives shatter and mend in this penetrating portrait of lives lived on the edge Compelling and devastating, Masaan marked the remarkable directorial debut of Neeraj Ghaywan.
- Vicky Kaushal whose journey as an actor began with Masaan was not the first choice. Rajkummar Rao was the first choice for the film.This is what Vicky told me. “The director Neeraj Ghaywan and I were both assistants on Gangs Of Wasseypur. We bonded since then and would discuss scenes from Masaan. During that time Neeraj wanted to sign Rajkummar Rao for my part. But his dates didn’t work out. That’s how I got the part.”Kaushal never expected the reactions that got for his performance in Masaan. “I knew I had worked hard. But this kind of praise was unimaginable.”
- Richa Chadha as a Varanasi girl whose life spins out of control after she’s caught in a hotel room by an extortionist cop having sex with her boyfriend, has never been seen giving a better performance.Richa said she didn’t identify with her character of Devi Pathak because she, Richa ,was a rebel. But for a smalltown woman like Devi Pathak being slut shamed for having pre-marital sex, every day is a struggle. Rebellion is a luxury affordable to the empowered .
- Sanjay Mishra who played Richa Chadha’s economically challenged father trying to keep the blackmailing cop from slut shaming his daughter by arranging for large sums of money,lived his role. “For six months I felt like Richa Chadha’s father. Neeraj Ghaywan is a director who breathes life into every frame. I wonder why he has not made another feature film after Masaan.”
- Masaan was originally titled Fly Away Solo. Neeraj Ghaywan shot the entire film on location in Varanasi. Before shooting Neeraj and his writer Varun Grover spent a fortnight exploring Varanasi.No actor was allowed to use glycerine in the film.Artifice doesn’t work with this director.