Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi Is Exceptionally Relatable

Written & Directed  by Seema  Pahwa

Rating: ****

What a wonderful way for  Indian cinema to  begin the year!  Let me say straightaway  that Ramprasad Ki Tehrviis a very fine film, and a spectacular start  not just to this year,  but also to veteran actress Seema Pahwa’s career as a  director. Her understanding of  the basically selfish selfserving nature of humankind is so deep, amd so bang-on that five minutes into the film I  felt I  was  sitting awkwardly as part  of  Ramprasad’s grieving  family, their  sickening squabbles over tea  and  bathroom time, and  later on, their  bickering over  their father’s property, all so lived-in so  real it is hurtful even while it is  amusing to the extreme.

Some  critics have commented on  the large number of  characters  , and how difficult it is to figure  out who’s who. Nonsense! We are for too long inured in spoonfeeding tactics. It is  our  duty and  obligation to  give a  film our complete attention when it deserves it, to surrender  to  the  cast of characters  unquestioningly. 

Seema Pahwa’s writing is razor-sharp and  crystal-clear. Even the smallest  of characters have a  life  of their own.The  domestic politics is  never over-punctuated.  It emerges from the  deep creases and crevices  of  bereavement  like pebbles from the bottom  of  a  tranquil stream.

 Most of the time, Ms Pahwa knows when to draw the line.The  narrative pulls out of  an argument, no matter how heated,  before its gets too hot to handle. This is  not to say that she leaves the characters and their  grievances stranded or unfinished. The wise and  articulate  construct  of  the  dynamics of  bereavement  makes plenty of room for mood shifts and yet there is a consistency and a continuity to the ‘family tragedy’, as defined once by Tolstoy.

 Lucknow where  the  rites of passage are held is treated not as  a city of  marvelous experiences  but a mere tool  in the hands of the people who  live there.The director threads her way through the characters, Ramprasad’s genuinely grieving wife(Supriya Pathak, so  stately and supremely  immersed  in the tragedy) and his six children: four sons and two daughters each played with unsurpassable  scrupulosity  by  Manoj Pahwa, NinadKamath, Vinay Pathak, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Anubha  Fatehpuri and Sarika  Singh. Each of these characters plunges into his or her part wholeheartedly unconditionally and  non-judgementally. Since I haven’t seen much of Ms Fatehpuri’s work before she is a special  revelation. The  mercurial changes in mood are  recorded with  a casual grace that comes naturally to a director who knows her milieu  only to well.

Other stand-out performances come from Konkona Sen Sharma as the youngest son’s disgruntled  wife  and Vikrant Massey as the eldest son’s son. The two share a dangerous  complicated relationship that could snowball into  a sequel. I wouldn’t mind , as  long NaseeruddinShah  returns from the dead. His strong presence is felt throughout this spirited  vivacious  gentle  and occasionally vicious film(the drunken eldest son telling his brothers  that he had seen his parents  “doing  it”  will make you squirm)  on death and  its aftermath when every bereaved  sits down to do the math.

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