Starring: Neha, Jatin Grewal, Yash Pathak, Rajeshwari Sachdev, Mahesh Thakur
Director: Prakash Jha
Music Director: Anu Malik
Nutshell: Bollywood takes the Kramer Vs. Kramer angle once again….yawn!!
Rahul is a Subhash Ghai presentation and one wonders why he wanted to enter the field of small and meaningful cinema since his films are usually massive extravaganzas of the overblown variety. But hang on a minute, we are presuming that this is “small and meaningful cinema” simply because Prakash Jha is an intelligent man with a chequered history in making films.
I remember one of his earlier efforts Hip Hip Hurray which, as I recall, was a wonderfully made film. I also remember the deplorable Bandish with Jackie and Juhi and the more commendable mrityudand which attempted with reasonable success, to blend commercial and “art” cinema together. What surprised me was Dil Kya Kare, a film with some excellent performances, some very real issues but a script that let the film down in a manner that you would not imagine Prakash Jha to be associated with. Rahul treads a similar path. Rahul (Yash Pathak) lives alone with his father Akash (Jatin Grewal) who appears to be a tourist bus guide. Rahul dreams of his mother, but we see her being referred to in the worst possible terms. Akash spews venom at the mention of Meera, his wife who appears to have deserted father and son and Rahul believes that his mother is an evil woman who did not want him and did not love him. Rahul and Akash live a fairytale life. Father cooks, cleans and tends to Rahul’s every need in typical hindi film ishtyle and then goes off to his job and Rahul goes off, by himself, to school. There is no one else to tend to him except an old deaf neighbour.
Rahul’s voyage to his mother is eased by words from the local grocery man (Gulshan Grover) who informs him that his mother loved and loves him tremendously and although he knows where she lives, for the fear of reprisals from Akash, he cannot take Rahul to her. So one day, rahul hides in his van and ends up outside his mother’s house who says that she does not want to see him until he is 5 when the court will decide finally with whom Rahul will stay. On seeing this, Rahul runs away but thereafter, one sees the reintroduction of his mother into his life. She visits him at school and he seems to be able to travel from where he lives to where his mother lives in Mahableshwar without anyone tracking his movements or knowing where he is.
In the meantime, Akash is being beckoned to settle down with Sheila (Rajeshwari) so that Rahul can have a “mother” whereas his mother’s family are also trying to have her settled down. But Rahul wants both his parents. It is a wonderful idea to have a film seen through the eyes of the child. However, in its execution, Jha falters. The whole premise of the film is so flimsy that it really takes away the real feeling behind what could have been a very real situation. The whole thing rings false.
You do have parents who hate each other, who are selfish and do not put the needs of their child before their own. But here, the drama is built on the age old hackneyed plot line of rich poor boy girl dilemma and the girl’s rich and very clichéd snobbish family who continue to irk our hero’s rather complex ridden ego. Akash does not have a chip on his shoulder, its more like a whole mountain of trees. On Rahul’s birthday, Akash beats up his brother in law for some silly slight that his macho ego cannot take to which Meera demands an apology. This not being forthcoming, Meera walks out of the house and on being told that she cannot take Rahul, she decides to abandon the child. We are told subsequently that the court has decided that the child would remain with the father until he is 5 at which point the court would review its decision. This again is simply unbelievable. Which court would hand over a one year old child to a father, with low income, no family and no one to assist him when the mother is an equally capable parent, with considerable wealth and no worries as to her son’s care. There is no presumption that children should be handed to their fathers at that age. Utter poppycock and really, what is Jha really upto here with a script which is so ramshackle and does not have holes but craters in it?
Having been abandoned, you would imagine that there would be sympathy for the father but there isn’t. He poisons his son’s mind against his mother, being vitriolic and then forcing the child to choose between one parent or the other. This is tantamount to abuse. And you feel little sympathy for this mother who walked out on her child, who never bothered to repair what was broken, who could not see what damage was being inflicted on this little innocent child. Jha manages to get across the turmoil within this child and there are moments which are gutwrenching…father emotionally blackmailing his child to tell his mother that he hates her strikes a chord and it is difficult not to be moved by scenes such as this. But it is all rather melodrama and loud and the long drawn out climax finally resolves matters, albeit most unsatisfactorily. Jha is sensitive in handling the scenes of the child but otherwise, there is little subtlety in this film. Jha pads out his film with filmi characters seen zillions of times before…the snooty mother in law, the wayward brother in law, the kind grocery man, the sacrificing girlfriend, the sacrificing boyfriend, the sermonising doctor…the list is endless.
The film rarely strikes the right chord and it ends up being a rather ordinary effort. Mansoor Khan attempted of this kind but it was more to do with a husband and wife split with a child left behind by the wife. Not seen through the eyes of the child, it dealt with a similar situation as far as the break up was concerned but there was great empathy with the father’s character as he was an exemplary father who did not destroy the mother’s vision in his son’s eyes. There was also some credence to why they separated whereas in Rahul, it is the flimsiest of reasons. And Akele Hum akele tummanaged some memorable scenes between father and son. There are none in this film. Yash Pathak as Rahul is indeed very good and manages to move one from time to time. He has the right blend of innocence and naughtiness. Jatin Grewal looks Ok but is as wooden as they come. There is simply no sign of expression on his face. Neha on the other account is actually very good. Rajeshwari Sachdev is also good. Anu Malik’s music is a bit of a mixed bag. “Ched na”, “main hoon apni piya ki jogan” , “vah re vah” and “chalti hai purvai” are well orchestrated but “eh kaash aisa na hota” and “a song to sing” are both howlers. Sadly Alka’s version of tu mujhe kaise bhool jaata hai was not in the film. The scene of “a song to sing” is so long that I went off to get some popcorn. Unfortunately, even though I took a lazy pace, the damn song was still playing when I returned! This is not up to the standard that one would expect of Prakash Jha. Or are we simply expecting too much. Disappointing.