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Panchlait Movie Review: Renu’s Story Comes To Life!



Movie: Panchlait

Starring: Amitosh Nagpal,  Anuradha Mukherjee,Yashpal Sharma,Rajesh Sharma

Directed by: Prem Prakash Modi

Rating: ***(3 Stars)

If you’ve ever been  in a village  of North Bihar, or, better still, lived the life of  a North Bihari village in the stories  of  the great litterateur Phanishwarnath  Renu, then you’d find it easy to forgive  the amateurishness  of   many portions of the storytelling  in  Panchlait .

Instead  you’d be happy to focus on  the  sheer heartwarming  naivete  of   the villagers in 1954 who are consumed  by the act of bringing a ‘petromax’ to  the  village.

There is much  empathy and  warmth in the characters  played by  a bevy of brilliant actors.Yashpal Sharma  as  a  villagesarpanch who’s  possessive of his pretty wife , Brijendra Kala as a Krishna Bhakt with a secret yearning  for  spiritual   cross-dressing , and  Rajesh Verma  as a wandering  minstrel  lend a lipsmacking  lustre to the proceedings.But the central romance  between Godhan(Amitosh Nagpal) and Munri(Anuradha Mukherjee) lets  the  down the satirical  flavour  of  the  plot.

The narrative  also moves forward as a tribute to Raj Kapoor and  his persona  of  the lovable tramp in the   film Awara. On another level ,  as we see a nautanki  rendition  of Krishna Bhagwan’s  Raas Leela  being  performed, there  is  a winking tribute to Pahnishwarnath Renu and Raj Kapoor’s collaboration in the  glorious  but unsuccessful film Teesri Kasam.

All of these  scattered and  genial images  from  a  rural life  of naïve yearnings   as seen  through the profound prism  of Phanishwarnath Renu’s story, is  attempted to be  assimilated together  in  what  could be best seen as a whittled-down but witty and warm  portrait  of  a rural ingenuity done with sincerity but  amateurishness.

The  authentic locations enhance the narrative’s  constrained  appeal. The narrative really comes into its own in the last half an hour  when the  villagers’ collective pride must be ignited by the lighting up of the  petromax. The  director gets the satirical  mood  of  anxiety right in those scenes.

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