A song from Aamir Khan's comic satire PEEPLI [LIVE] is extremely relevant two years after its release:
"Sakhi saiyaan toh khoob hi kamaat hai,
Mehangai daayan khaye jaat hai..."
The common man's fight against spiraling prices of household items [also corruption] is legendary by now. But the aam aadmi continues to face the inflation audaciously, maintaining a smile under most unpleasant circumstances. SAARE JAHAAN SE MEHNGA..., directed by first-time director Anshul Sharma, attempts to underline the predicament of a middle class family that's grappling with inflation.
Rewind to the 1970s. Films made by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Chaterjee and Sai Paranjpye encapsulated the middle class environment to the delight of the spectators. More recently, Dibakar Banerjee's KHOSLA KA GHOSLA, Rajkumar Hirani's MUNNABHAI series, Habib Faisal's DO DOONI CHAAR, Subhash Kapoor's PHAS GAYE RE OBAMA [which, incidentally, was produced by the same production house that has made SAARE JAHAAN SE MEHNGA...] and Aamir Khan's PEEPLI [LIVE] were thought-provoking satires on the hardships faced by the common man.
Anshul's take on the on-going malady is laced with amusing episodes and that's what makes it an identifiable attempt. As a matter of fact, the plight of the common man, who is burdened with constant price rise, comes across quite well in this satire, in the second hour specifically. Nonetheless, I wish to point out, the film is not without its share of flaws. More on that later!
SAARE JAHAAN SE MEHNGA... is a mirthful take on inflation seen through a wage-earning, working class family unit from Sonepat, Haryana. Puttan [Sanjay Mishra] resides with his family consisting of his father Nagpal [Vishwa Mohan Badola], his wife Noori [Pragati Pandey] and younger brother Gopal [Ranjan Chhabra]. One of Puttan's friends comes up with a scheme to deal with inflationary pressure, but what's expected to liberate them from mehangai turns chaotic.
SAARE JAHAAN SE MEHNGA... has an attention-grabbing thought and the implementation catches your eye on several occasions, more so towards the latter half. In fact, much of the first hour is devoted to establishing the plot/characters and how the common man is grappling with inflation. While the first hour is strictly okay, the film takes a dramatic turn in the latter half as the family finds itself cornered. The penultimate portions, in particular, are the mainstay of the enterprise.
The film benefits considerably because Anshul gives a lot of attention to tiny details, thus recreating the middle class environment delightfully. The realistic milieu, the wit and humor in the conversation and of course, the graceful act by its principal cast makes you leave the auditorium with a beam on your face. The sole deterrent is that the writing could've been tighter, although the run time [less than 2 hours] is just perfect. The soundtrack has been created keeping the essence of the film. 'Aoun De', towards the end credits, is a pleasing track, while the romantic song between the young couple could've been avoided.
Sanjay Mishra is splendid. He's the lifeline of the film. Vishwa Mohan Badola tends to go over the top at times, but is wonderful otherwise. Zakir Hussain is exceptional. Pragati Pandey is a complete natural. Ranjan Chhabra is satisfactory. Disha doesn't get much to do. Sitaram Panchal [as Vedpal] is first-rate.
On the whole, SAARE JAHAAN SE MEHNGA... is topical, relevant and relatable, with some endearing moments. It may be lacking in face-value, but you can't deny that it's an honest effort!