There are some films that offer pure entertainment. There's another category of films that takes a different route and offers entertainment through enlightenment. Nagesh Kukunoor's 3 DEEWAREIN [which takes its inspiration from the Hollywood flick THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION] falls in the second category.
The film has a setting that's disturbing, uses language that's raw, showcases characters who are far from ideal role models, but it looks at hope as well as redemption that can occur in the darkest of areas.
3 DEEWAREIN is the story of three prisoners who've been sentenced to a death penalty ï¿½ Jaggu [Jackie Shroff], Nagya [Nagesh Kukunoor] and Ishaan [Naseeruddin Shah].
The prison warden [Gulshan Grover] believes in complete transformation and sees prisons as a home for people and not as cages for animals.
Nagya feels that he was wrongly convicted and truth will prevail, while Jaggu accepts his fate willingly. Ishaan knows he will never walk a free man again and sets out to do what he does best ï¿½ find a 'patli gali' to escape.
Enter Chandrika [Juhi Chawla], a documentary film-maker who wants to make a film on the three men. Slowly, a bond begins to form between the three men and Chandrika as they realise that in some inexplicable way, they are linked to each other.
How are their fates linked to each other?
Realistically treated, 3 DEEWAREIN tells the story of three convicts rather effectively. Although a number of Hindi films have peeped into the lives of prisoners, this one depicts the conditions they lead their lives in, in the most realistic manner.
However, if this aspect is the USP of the film, it's also its biggest drawback since a film like this wouldn't be the perfect choice for a majority of Indian cinegoers, looking for 'timepass' entertainment. The target audience of the film is the intelligentsia ï¿½ the ones who choose to watch such films in the comfort of their homes on DVDs.
Director Nagesh Kukunoor has treated the subject with care. The film boasts of several well penned, well enacted and well executed sequences. The scene when Juhi finally decides to seek divorce from her husband [Vallabh Vyas] is amongst the best sequences witnessed on the Indian screen in recent times.
However, the climax of the film may not find many takers. The audience reaction to 'three stories, one ending' is sure to be diverse ï¿½ extreme appreciation or complete rejection.
Even otherwise, the film moves at a snail's pace, which tests the patience of the viewer. The generous usage of English language in several sequences would also prove a deterrent, since the non-English speaking audiences wouldn't be able to fathom what's going on.
Director Nagesh Kukunoor has created the right ambience and has also extracted natural performances from one and all, but he seems to have miscalculated that the viewer of today would comprehend the narrative easily. A few sequences are bound to go over the top, for the director has not taken the effort to explain them well.
While the characters are believable and the script intriguing, the cinematography provides the important 'view' in the film. Thick walls, imposing fences and confined spaces give the film a realistic feel. The usage of the background music at a few places only, works.
Naseeruddin Shah is fabulous in a role that provides at least some relief in an otherwise grim scenario. Jackie Shroff is first-rate. He manages to convey the pain through expressions. Nagesh Kukunoor is equally convincing.
Juhi Chawla is amazing. This is amongst her finest performances. Gulshan Grover is adequate. Sujata Mehta [sp. app.] is fair.
On the whole, 3 DEEWAREIN is a film for mature audiences and critics, who love to go ga-ga over arty movies. It may also hit upon some glory at the film circuit. But on home turf, its appeal would be restricted to a minority in big cities only. At the box-office, the film has dismal chances!