ESC Films' ESCAPE FROM TALIBAN, directed by U. Chatterjee, is a true story based on a bestseller KABULIWALA'S BENGALI WIFE.
Sushmita [Manisha Koirala] is a young woman from India who falls in love with a handsome Afghani. Abandoning country, community and family, she follows him to his homeland. Jaanbaz [Nawab Khan], her husband, eagerly describes the wonderful life they will share and the family they will raise in the hilly terrain near Kabul.
In Afghanistan, Sushmita is confronted with a horrific new reality. Under the rule of the Taliban, Sushmita's individuality and spirit are crushed as she is forced to be compliant and meek.
At first, Sushmita's love for Jaanbaz makes the ill-treatment bearable. But one night, Sushmita discovers her husband's terrible secret and realizes that he, too, has considered her little more than a commodity all along. The love she thought they shared turns out to be a lie.
Trapped in a loveless marriage, Sushmita makes an unlikely and courageous decision. She resolves to reclaim her lost freedom or die trying.
Though a true story, ESCAPE FROM TALIBAN bears a striking resemblance to the recently released SHAKTHI ï¿½ THE POWER. A tale of an oppressed woman who raises her voice against the atrocities, what sets ESCAPE FROM TALIBAN apart from films of its ilk is that the film is treated realistically ï¿½ the customs, the lifestyle and the language of Afghanis has been used generously in the enterprise.
Director U. Chatterjee has tackled a few sequences with utmost maturity. The transformation of a simple woman to an oppressed wife and subsequently to a woman scorned is portrayed effectively.
If the first half of the enterprise does succeed in portraying the anguish of a woman trapped in an alien country, the second half does not come across as strong thanks to the loose ends in the screenplay.
To start with, the proceedings in this half tend to get too lengthy, too cumbersome. The repeated attempts by the protagonist to flee the village get monotonous after a point. Even the ending gives the feeling that something is amiss.
Also, the screenplay leaves several poignant questions unanswered/unexplained till the very end.
[i] Why is Janbaaz, the husband, relegated to the background in the post-interval portions? Except for a reference that he has left for India and one sequence depicting him playing cards, there's no sequence that shows that he is a changed man.
[ii] How does the protagonist [Manisha] suddenly manage to open a dispensary, with loads of medicines, when all communications with outside world is as good as zilch?
Besides the screenplay, which is not tight enough, the editing is also loose in the second half. The film needs to be trimmed by at least 20 minutes to make the goings-on crisper.
Cinematography [Vivek Banerjee] is striking. The hilly terrains do resemble a hamlet in Afghanistan. Dialogues [Subhrajyoti] are authentic.
Manisha Koirala breathes fire in a couple of sequences, but her diction [English] is faulty. Nawab Khan is efficient, but his role is underdeveloped. Aly Khan is first-rate. Ferozeh [as Gulguti] does not impress. Prithvi Zutshi [as the uncle] is competent.
On the whole, ESCAPE FROM TALIBAN is engaging to an extent, but has some loopholes in its script that dilutes the overall impact. At the box-office, the film may appeal to those who appreciate realistic cinema. The English version has some chances of faring better at multiplexes.