A SIMPLE MURDER (SonyLIV): The young desperately ambitious couple in this fair-to-fine series Manish and Richa typify the can’t-do-without-can’t-do-with type of relationship where sparks fly and bullets roar. No matter how many times this hot-headed couple is torn apart by circumstances (read: screenwriters, and there are two of them here) Manish and Richa cannot let by-guns be by-guns. To our amusement, they are constantly at each other’s throat, with guns drawn.
Bhai, nozzle na lag jaaye! This is a couple with greed guiding them into a ruinous self-destructive relationship. As Manish and Richa, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Priya Anand bring a dash of chutzpah to the table. Ms Anand looks pretty in close-ups, of which she gets plenty. There is another pair of love birds in the series who are on the run from the girl’s powerful politician papa.
Honour killing, anyone? I must say the killings in A Simple Murder are undertaken honorably.The violence is interestingly staged, and one chase and shootout in a Cineplex is an instant classic. Made me wonder why the narrative squanders away time in superfluous banter which includes lyrics from songs thrown between two murderous ruffians, in a mood of lethal playfulness. The aforementioned ruffians are played by Amit Sial and Sushant Singh. Both masters of their craft, they infuse their characters and situations in the plot with a purpose and an energy beyond what it deserves. Sial is especially superb with his raucous mix of ruthlessness and mischief. If there is a next season, I want to see much more of Sial and Singh.
Gopal Singh as a cop who may not be as corrupt as he seems, does a rare thing with his character: he turns a stereotypical Simmba into something more. Yashpal Sharma as a gangster moonlighting as a goodman is also very funny even when he knocks down victims with ill-concealed glee. But the glistening surface of some of the performances is weighed down by what lies underneath. Attempts to be sharp and alert are successful only to a point. After a while it falls apart. The midriff sags and the grand finale is so clumsily staged it negates almost every good thing that crops up in the plot once in a while.
MEE RAQSAM (Zee5) : In the idyllic village of Mijwan there lives a Muslim girl whose heart beats for the Bharat Natyam dance form. Bharat Natyam??!!! Her family and the village community are aghast. Yeh to kafiron ka kaam hai. How can a decent 15-year old do….this!! Shame!!!
I loved the twinkle-eyed irreverence embedded in debutant director Baba Azmi heartwarming nugget. Brimming over with affection, warmth and humour Mee Raqsam takes a tender and evocative look at the risky task of cultural crossovers in India, without any political agenda.
When the film's bright intelligent protagonist Mariam takes to Bharat Natyam her favoured mood is neither green nor saffron. Writer-director Baba Azmi portrays Mariam’s relationship with her father (Danish Hussain) with the same indelible affection that one saw between Ashok Kumar and his screen-daughter Sarika in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Aashirwaad. The shared moments of filial action suffuse the heart with a feeling of pure love seldom seen in our cinema. When Danish Hussain’s Salim catches his daughter trying out some Bharat Natayam posters at home she coaxes him into joining her. For a few precious seconds, it’s just the blissful beti and baap giggling and dancing. My favourite moment between father and daughter is the one just before Mariam’s big climactic dance recital when ‘Abba’ Salim insists on putting alta (red colour) on his daughter’s feet reasoning, ‘Ammi ko manaa karti kya?’ The tender moment embodies the widower father’s determination to play the roles of both parents.
Watching this father from an ultra-conservative community stretching himself to give his daughter the freedom to be be happy, to live her life the way she wants to, I was reminded of a 2015 British film Eye In The Sky, where an impoverished Kenyan father lets his little girl do what she wants in their home but warns her to be reined-in before the villagers.
In Mee Raqsam, the father goes further. He takes on the local frowners and lets his daughter dance on stage. Here is where politics seeps into this uncontaminated film. While Naseeruddin Shah as a hardliner Mullah is a masterclass in restrained bigotry his Hindu counterpart a middling politician Jayaprakash (Rakesh Chaturvedi Om) is purely uni-dimensional villainy insisting as he does on calling Mariam ‘Sultana’ and insulting Mariam’s father at every given opportunity.
I wish we could magically erase the dirty politics that separates the two communities and bars a young girl from pursuing her dreams. But then, as in art so in life the beautiful and the ugly must co-exist. I would rather carry with me Danish Aslam’s look of pride on seeing his daughter achieve her dream than the hardliner’s evil look of disappointment as his diabolic designs are decimated by the magic that can only happen in cinema. Mee Raqsam celebrates the triumph of love, innocence and amity over the religious divide. An unassuming but relevant drama reflective of our times.
Image source: IMDb
Image source: IMDb