Thursday, June 21, 2007

Film Review: Nittal


Nittal (Crystal Clear) 135 min
Language: Marathi
Director: Sumitra Bhave & Sunil Sukthankar


Does the coming together of two good-looking people make for a successful marriage? Is the appearance of respectability and decent living between married couples an acceptable compromise for the lack of true, inner happiness? On the surface, Nittal takes up the cause of vilitigo (white patches on the skin) and how society discriminates against people who suffer from it. But look a little deeper and you’ll see that this is one of the most wonderfully layered and impacting films in recent times. While it forcefully tackles the issue at hand, what makes this film superlative is its profound statement on the futility of ‘ keeping appearances’ and constantly adopting the ‘no risk, middle-road’ mantra in life.
Neeraja is a young, intelligent girl, with pleasing manners and a ready smile. A competent eye surgeon, her vitiligo affliction, however, makes life a bit tough for her.
Since childhood, Neeraja has bravely dealt with her situation, trying to fight the misconceptions about her 'disease’. Yet, it has to be said, that even with her professional proficiency and upbeat spirit, Neeraja does suffer from an inferiority complex about the way she looks
It takes a fellow doctor, Ananya Ranade to tell her how beautiful her hands are while at a surgery. “That was the first time I looked at my hands with love’ says Neeraja.
Her friend ship with Ananya deepens and the latter invites her home to his house in Pune, a place teeming with relative and friends, all gathered for a family get-together.
Everyone is excited to see Ananya’s ‘girlfriend’ but go into an awkward silence once they see Neeraja and the white patches on her face. From there on, the story unravels various aspects of each one’s life in the family and certain uneasy truths that lie beneath their picture perfect portraits.
While Ananya’s aunts take a liking to Neeraja, his mother stays strongly opposed to the match. After the party, she argues her point, “We have a certain reputation to live up to. Whatever my difference with your father, we have lived a decent live. Our paths have never crossed, but we lived honourably,” she argues.
His father (brilliant played by Vikram Gokhale) differs, “Yes we lived a ‘decent’ life but honourable, no....There’s no honour in leading such a life! Yes, we are confident to face people in society but we can’t face ourselves?”
Besides the issue of appearance, the film also talks about courage and the willingness to accept responsibility for the choices one makes in life and going the full hog with it. Ananya, though clearly attracted to Neeraja, is confused whether he should marry her (or marry anyone at all).
His grandpa, played by the revered Vijay Tendulkar himself, advices him to go ahead only if he has the courage of conviction. “Will-power and destiny always go hand in hand. But when will power is coupled with enlightenment, then it can easily overpower destiny”
Magical words and what can I say, a truly wonderful film that strikes at the soul!
On the Director Duo
Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhthakar are easily one of the best director duos in the country today. Each one of their films are socially relevant and at the same time, extremely engaging. Their films actually make an impact at the grass root levels and that itself is a huge achievement.In general, there’s a familiar pattern in all the issues that they take up in their films. They all have something to do with discrimination in society and how it can be overcome. Their film Dahavi F (Tenth standard F) spoke of how a bunch of rowdy, underprivileged street children turn violent when they are unfairly punished in school. However, they have a change of heart and even redeem themselves when they receive some kindness among their teachers.Again Vastupurush was about discrimination on the basis of caste, orthodoxy and the failure of Gandhian ideals. Nittal is easily one of their best films and one can only hope that this director duo go on from strength to strength.

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