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Banaras - A Mystic Love Story
Banaras - A Mystic Love Story
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'Banaras - A Mystic Love Story' - Nothing mystifying

By Nitika Desai
Film critic, ApunKaChoice.Com


If you hope to stumble upon some life-transforming truth in director Pankuj Parashar’s ‘Banaras – A Mystic Love Story’, you will be let down.

Despite the lofty claims made by the movie’s producer L C Singh – who grew up in the holy city and studied in the Banaras Hindu University – regarding the movie’s unusual subject dealing with metaphysical questions and drawing parallels between quantum physics and eastern mysticism, the movie ends up as a love story gone awry against the visually striking collage of a mesmerizing city. Of course, there are allusions to spirituality and the transcending of human suffering through self-realization throughout the story, but these are so absurdly obvious that you are none the wiser at the end of the day.

The


movie’s story is told in flashback. An ailing father hopes to see his estranged daughter before his earthly exit. A daughter who was once a chirpy young girl who dared to love a low-caste only to be rebuffed by the orthodox society and driven to the brink of insanity before she found salvation deep within her Self.

Urmila Matondkar plays Shwetambari. Seen in the flashback, she is a science student at the university in Banaras. Ashmit Patel plays the quiet, shy musician Soham, whose lingering smile and minimal physical movements almost make him pass off as a sage-in-the-making.

Shwetambari is charmed by the charisma of this low-caste musician. Soham, after one meditative session, is illumined by a mystic named Babaji (Naseeruddin Shah) and decides there is no harm in falling in love with the girl from the high-caste Brahmin family.

But it is a relationship that evokes the wrath of some orthodox mindsets in the holy city. First, Shwetambari faces disapproval from her mother (Dimple Kapadia) and patriarchal father (Raj Babbar). Even after the worries of her parents are placated, the lovers fail to get united.

Shwetambari is shattered. Depressed, dejected and deranged, she leaves the holy city.

Seventeen years on, Shwetambari has attained what many spiritual seekers strive for in vain. She is an enlightened woman giving discourses and answering questions of the within.

That notwithstanding, she is faced with the dilemma of returning to Banaras to meet her dying father. Back to the holy city she does go. But her return creates turbulence in the mindscape of her so-called self-realized being.

Although a movie rich in human emotions, ‘Banaras – A Mystic Love Story’ keeps a false façade of spirituality and mysticism. And honestly speaking, those heavy words doling out from the mouth of a serene looking Urmila (as the Godmother in the latter half) hardly sound convincing.

Still, the movie is an eye-catching postcard of the amazing city that Banaras is. The holy city has been captured on celluloid with stunning beauty by cinematographer Nirav Shah. The panoramic, amber-hued shots of the city’s ghats, temples and other localities register a pleasant impression on the unrealized minds of the viewers.

The songs, set to the music by Himesh Reshammiya, look more mandatory than intrinsic to the story.

Performance-wise, Urmila gives her best to the role. But sometimes the best, too, is not enough if there is no meat in the script. However, she undoubtedly excels in the movie’s concluding reels.

Ashmit Patel justifies the role etched out for him. Raj Babbar stands tall in the entire ensemble with his portrayal of a proud and stern man and yet a loving father. Dimple Kapadia is just about adequate.

Naseeruddin Shah hardly goes wrong in any role he takes. And the same goes for his enlightened Babaji in the movie.

Director Pankuj Parashar does deserve credit for telling the story aesthetically. The movie unspools at an almost rhythmic pace and reaches an emotional high in the closing reels. But, alas, the spiritual sophistry sucks.


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