Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dharm


Banaras, Varanasi, Kashi – the oldest seat of the mighty Hindu Dharm. In that holiest of cities resides Pandit Chaturvedi, true to his dharma, strict of his rituals, he is the epitome of sanatana dharma in the city. Other pandits fear and envy him, people in power respect him, his word is the law. All because there is not one more steadfast in religion than Pandit Chaturvedi.

Then one day, the pandit's daughter brings home an infant, who she claims to be a Brahmin's son, abandoned by his mother. The pandit's wife is overcome with love for the child and manipulates Pandit Chaturvedi into adopting him. The Pandit has doubts, about the birth caste and origins of this child but as the child grows up in his house, he becomes extremely attached to him.

And then, another day, they discover that the child, named Kartikey by Pandit Chaturvedi, is actually a Muslim's son. The pandit casts him aside like a torn rag, and does penance for this ghor paap committed unknowingly by him. He cleans his body through rituals but is not able to clean his heart which reverberates with the sounds of the childs laughter day and night. Troubled, he embarks upon the most difficult Chandrayan vrat. Religious riots break out in the city and there is fire and blood all around. Panditji successfully completes his vrat but purity of heart remains an unachieved goal.

The movie is one of the most powerful I've ever seen. Of course, it is not dealing with a new topic. However, the plot point that it hinges it's message on, is really powerful. It drives home two points very effectively. One, there really is no difference, by birth, between a Hindu child and a Muslim child. Two, no amount of ritualism can bring real purity to your heart if you're drowning in violence and hatred and doing nothing about it.

Pankaj Kapoor is one of the best actors India has seen. He is natural in his role as a Kashi pandit in this movie. He is stern, powerful, respectable, yet caring at the same time. When the rioting mobs stand down even at one stern gaze by Pandit Chaturvedi, it is believable.

Cinematography is exquisite. I never knew Kashi could look that beautiful. The visuals are very powerful and the music aptly supports the screenplay.

My rating: 4/5 (Recommended)

5 comments:

  1. This could have been our Oscar nomination if it unfortunately hadnt lost out to Eklavya.
    I havent seen Eklavya, but something beats me that it couldnt have been better than Pandit Chaturvedi

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  2. @ Khalil Sawant - I haven't seen Eklavya either. Let me see if I can catch it somewhere.

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  3. I have seen both and I can assure is Dharm is far far better than Eklavya which I was not able to endure for long.

    About Pankaj Kapoor's acting, all panegyrics fall short. He is impeccable as a mahapandit in kashi and so is Supriya pathak as his wife. As you said, the cinematography is classy. This one is definitely a movie to cherish.

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  4. @ Richa - thanks for the comment. What does panegyric mean? :P

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  5. I have seen Eklavya, but not Dharm, yet. Sad. Mid tersm and all, sheh. Anyway, weekend in row, so will be back for more comments later.

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