Its a fantastic movie. That’s the one line summary of all that is about to follow.
I watched it a few months ago and then watched it many times since then. After watching it for the first time, I stayed awake in the bed until early in the morning, could not sleep. Some remote feeling of uneasiness pervaded throughout the night. Every subsequent attempt at watching the film simply deepens that feeling. People here on Quora are trying to make the sense of it from psychological perspective. Although it is very difficult to capture an audio-visual experience in words, here is my take.
(Spoiler alert – don’t read ahead if you are yet to watch the movie. You can watch the trailer here.)
IMDB introduces the movie thus – “Ankhon Dekhi centers around Raje Bauji, played by Sanjay Mishra who, after a dramatic incident, decides that he will only believe what he sees with his eyes.” Ostensibly, its a movie of an old town, 50-odd years old person from a lower middle class in Delhi called Bauji. Someone may think of it as a twisted comical story of mid-life crisis. It is not. Its also not a story of his family, though it appears like one. The film is rich in allegorical meanings, symbolic and metaphorical interpretations – intended or unintended by Rajat Kapoor. We can only guess.
Coming to the main quest of Bauji – epiphany of truth being only experiential, at least insofar as personal belief system is concerned, I wonder how come no one talked about the concept of education by John Dewey in the context of this movie. His idea of experiential learning and socialisation are directly reflected into bauji’s quest of truth (but in a very comic-yet-serious way). When Bauji goes to the school to find out why his bhatija has failed the maths paper, he quizzes the math teacher with questions about parallel lines meeting at infinity. The math teacher himself has accepted this truth as given, without interrogation. His irritation, though very funny, shows the uneasiness one would experience if faced with inconvenience of having to think about the mundane things in very un-mundane way. (I actually of thought of Kabir’s ulatbansi here). Later in the movie, the teacher is happy that he could understand the real meaning of probability while playing teen-patti, a real life experience. Rajat Kapoor seems to be trying to bring out the meaning by subverting what is given/assumed/received and thus forcing us to think critically, albeit in a manner which is not pedantic/didactic. Here he succeeds in making full use of the film as an idiom. Some people might think that Bauji is just another avatar of an archetypal wise-fool. May be. But the movie is much more than that.
To me, the character of Chacha (Kapoor), the younger brother, represents an alter-ego of Bauji (Mishra). The development of Bauji’s inner struggle is inextricably linked with the trajectory of his relationship with Chacha on the outside. There is this concept called anomie, which is a condition in which an individual becomes free-floating, cut-off from the society in term of values and emotional bond. It is said to be one reason for suicides. Was Bauji experiencing that condition? What could have triggered that? The more Bauji tries to cut himself off from the received wisdom, closer gets the coterie of random people around him. Coterie’s coming closer and younger brother’s going away happen simultaneously, as if only to reinforce the same point. In the end when Bauji cuts the coterie abruptly off, Chacha comes back and the man-mutao between them is over. Both these things are correlated to Bauji’s intellectual/psychological arc of development. As if to emphasise that the journey is now over, internal struggle is conquered and calmness pervades. Whether or not Rajat Kapoor had all this in mind, we never know.
At another level, it is also a story of a lower middle class family trying to eke out its living in congested urban place. Its struggle is to create a meaning for itself in an urban social context. The film becomes overtly philosophical in a serious way only fleetingly. Take the scene of a train at hill station, in the end. The comment of a life being a mere sum of sequential experiences both good and bad goes very beautifully with the scene of a moving train in the woods. Apparently, Rajat Kapoor is strongly influenced by existentialist school of thought, but not in a very gloomy way. Although the marriage of Rita and dil-jamai of the two brothers are the happy things, the suicide in the end leaves a viewer with a deep sense of disillusionment, if not depression.
The movie is full of many subtle and not-so-subtle comments on society. The way the coterie around Bauji comments, reflects and reacts to Bauji over the whole trajectory of the storyline is one example of it. Class relations, power-structure inside family, expected gender roles – everything is there. Rajat Kapoor also has a good eye for satire – take for example a comic character of Ajju’s father or the gadbad at the marriage ceremony in the end. As if to suggest its irrelevance, or might I say irreverence?
Picturisation of Delhi 6 – its houses, alleys, schools and temples, its people and shops, its winter mornings and summer afternoons – as if the part of the city is a living character in the movie. About the music, its wonderful, apt and very enjoyable.
A good movie director is like a good chef, irrespective of intent and efforts, there has to be that additional X-factor without which the whole dinner might fail. Rajat Kapoor indeed has succeeded in creating a wonderful dish full of all the rasas. I just wish I could congratulate him for creating this wonderful movie one day.