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Tryst With Destiny(SonyLIV) 4 Episodes

 Fair & Fine: Ashish Vidyarthi, Suhasini Mani Ratnam, Victor Banerjee, Lillete Dubey, Ishwak Singh

The River: Vineet Kumar Singh, Kani Kusruti

One BHK: Jaideep Ahlawat, Palomi Ghosh

A Beast Within: Geetanjali Thapa, Amit Sial

Written & Directed by Prashant Nair

Rating: ***

Tryst With Destiny Review: There is  a wealth  of talent involved in this tall if  a little wobbly  4-storey anthology  that tells us…what does it tell us? That nothing has changed? We are still  at the same place where Pandit Nehru left us when he made that  ‘tryst with  destiny’ speech in  1947?

Mindsets  have  certainly not evolved. Luckily cinema has. At least some of  it has. Prashant Nair who made that  interesting film on migration Umrika in 2015 puts together a  sorry  perspective of  life at the grassroots. Or even  for the upwardly mobile.

In  the  first story  the brilliant  Ashish Vidyarthi plays a tycoon  who, when  insulted for his skin colour,  decides to get  himself a fair-skinned son-in-law at  any cost , by hook or by crook. A savagely tragi-comic view on societal prejudice, the story left me feeling bitter for wasting talented actors like Lilette Dubey,  Victor Bannerjee , Suhasini  Mani Ratnam and Ishwak Singh who have little  to do while Vidyarthi takes glorious centrstage. He compensates  for the poor use of  supporting talent.

The second story The River is  my favourite.  It’s  haunting in its silences,  searing in its  indictment  of socio-economic discrimination.  The  grossly  underrated Vineet  Kumar  is a silently imploding underdog whose tortured faces  conveys  more angst  in one  frame that Varun Dhawan  did in the whole of Badlapur. Vineet and  his screen-wife  Kani Kusruti reminded me of Om Puri and  Smita Patil in  Govind Nihalani’s Aakrosh. And that’s saying a  lot.

Jaideep Ahlawat is fabulous  as a havildar going to the dogs in  1 BHK. The  story is  very Brian de  Palma in mood. Sexy seductive wife(Paloma  Ghosh) is instrumental  in driving her cop husband into a life of  criminal wrongdoing. The  story secretes  considerable pent-up anger.And who better  at manifesting it than  Ahlawat? There is an atmospherically rich restaurant sequence between husband and wife throbbing with tension. When the poor waiter gets the brunt of it, we know life for the underdog always sucks.No matter what the menu.

 My least  favourite story is the last ,A Beast Within. Though the shortest  it is a largely unintelligible narrative ,with the  neglected  Geetanjali Thapa , playing some  kind of a  conservationist  battling to get  a tiger to safety  as  villager Amit Sial(powerful but  ineffective , for no  fault of the actor). Realizing the point doesn’t get across , director Prashant Nair adds a footnote:  a tv announcement  on what we just saw.

Gotcha.

The oddly staccato  title notwithstanding Tryst With Destiny is an evocative though uneven portrait  of fey socio-political mores in a rapidly-changing  society. I like the  smooth little touches  connecting the  four stories:  a peacock lost on the road, a tiger on  the prowl, a hoarding for  a fairness cream….Some of  the  plot points, specially in the fourth story lack fluency. But  the  performances take care of  the rough edges.

 The real hero of the anthology is cinematographer  Avinash Arun whose visuals are poetry in motion, even while composing the  collateral of  guilt  and  capturing the despair  of  squalor.

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