Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hey! Ram – A Critic’s Delight! (Part 1)

A film that is close to my heart...a film that leaves me in awe every time I talk about it...a film that is stored in all the lobes of my cerebrum for eternity giving a tight fight to the high quality blue ray discs....Hey! Ram is that film that I did not watch in a cinema hall when it was released. Something I regret till date. If I say Hey Ram taught me everything about cinema it IS an understatement. It taught me to look beyond the obvious in each and every frame of a film. According to me, filmmaking is all about planning and detailing. And Hey! Ram is an epitome of just that. The admiration of the meticulous planning dominates every viewing with the question ‘is this possible in the world of commercial cinema?’ The film excels in screenplay, costume, camera work, editing.... or rather it can be said the film has exploited the language of cinema to its fullest by transcending all films before its time; a model for the ones to come in the future.

Following is a list of my observations, appreciation and understanding of the many layers in the film. From the dedication to Ananthu to credits roll in the end, each second of hey ram is packed with details, more than just 24 frames. Hey Ram uses various channels of communication such as image, speech, sound, music, writing that interact to produce both implicit and explicit meaning.

The very first dialogues on darkness and light and the comparison with Gandhi, offer a hint of the development of the story around the two key figures Gandhi and Saket Ram. Another incitement into the story is the perfect timing of the uttering of the word Pakistan by Saket Ram Junior and the switching of the aspirator (sound effect) causing discomfort to Saket Ram Senior. (In other words the word Pakistan is also discomfort to Saket Ram Senior).

The second scene is quite an important scene as it clearly establishes the mindset of Saket Ram (S) and his broad outlook towards religion, that is, he has not formed an opinion in terms of religion. This is made clear in his words. When Mortimer Wheeler talks about the riots he says ‘Hindu Muslim riots’ but when Saket Ram explains this to Amjad he says ‘communal riots’. This Saket Ram in the later half tells Amjad Khan to go to ‘his’ Pakistan.

The following scene at the recreation club of Archaeological survey of India introduces many characters and their lifestyle during freedom struggle and partition issue. This scene helps in establishing the attitude of these Indians (Ram, Amjad and Lalwani) who are sharing cocktails with the Britishers. They are not really bothered by the current state of affairs in the country. For them it is another discussion over a drink. But later these three people face different turmoil, much to the contradiction of what they directly and indirectly mean in this scene.

Wheeler: To India (raising a drink)
Amjad: To India
Ram: Which India? Full or half?

Amjad: My wife is a Tamil Muslim from Amboor.
Britisher: Amber?
Lalwani: no sir its is not Amber it is Amboor … boor as in B O O R boor…
Britisher: poor and you?
Lalwani: no I am not poor I am a Sindhi sir.

As a complete contradiction to his statement Lalwani’s life takes a complete change. In the 35th scene before a railway gate Lalwani is selling paapads.
Maharajah: I wonder if he could count the money
Lalwani: Don’t worry your highness. That is what I was doing in Karachi.

While Ram goes for hunting with the maharajah he reveals he is a vegetarian. The maharajah laughs and exclaims that he is a hunter only with passion and no hunger. This truly symbolises the present state of Ram.

The conversation that Ram has with Abhyankar in Calcutta post partition was a bold dig at Gandhi. ‘Yenna theriyum intha aatu mandhaingalukku...thatha bakrid kondada porarnuu...” made me wonder how it escaped the censor’s scissors. Though Ram had a change of heart turning into a Gandhian the film continued its barbs even till its closing scene. Light enters the room of Saket Ram after opening the windows which had the painting of Gandhi’s face. There are no two ways of interpreting this.

Different characters use different language. Thus the film could be called an Indian film instead of a Tamil film. On the other hand, most of the time, the silence of the characters is eloquent. When Ram tries to seduce Mythili during the Lavni song the camera promptly pans to show the unhappy expression of Abhyankar. The scene where Ram and Mythili prostrate before the elders, Ram who is pre occupied gets up in 2 counts and Mythili hints to him mouthing ‘Moonu’ (three). How much more detailing can one expect?

(To be continued)

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