Mahesh Manjrekar has, quite often, excelled when he chose to attempt intense themes. Films like NIDAAN, VAASTAV and ASTITVA, at the start of his career, proved that Manjrekar is amongst the best if he puts his heart and soul into a movie.
But when the same director attempts comic capers like JIS DESH MEIN GANGA REHTA HAI and PADMASHREE LALOO PRASAD YADAV, you want to tear your hair in disgust. You pinch yourself, is he the same guy who narrated an absorbing story a few monsoons ago?
Clearly, Manjrekar is most comfortable handling films that seem straight out of life. Serious subjects or issue-based films are his forteï¿½
The spirited storyteller now takes a look at yet another serious subject in VIRUDDH. Of course, a remotely similar subject, revolving around aged parents who've lost their son, was witnessed earlier in Mahesh Bhatt's SAARANSH [Anupam Kher, Rohini Hattangadi].
But VIRUDDH is different from SAARANSH. While Bhatt's acclaimed movie focused on the aged parents trying to come to terms with a lonely existence, VIRUDDH is about an aged couple fighting tooth and nail to prove that their slain kid was not a drug peddler.
Talking of comparisons, the concept of an aged couple, in the sunset of their lives, was witnessed some time back in BAGHBAN. And VIRUDDH follows a similar path as far as the compatibility of the couple is concerned.
VIRUDDH has its highs and lows, but thankfully, Manjrekar gets it right this time. The director takes a simple plot and narrates it with utmost simplicity. There's no melodrama, no overt intention to poke fingers in your eyes to extract tears, the ambience is life-like, the characters are the type we witness in our day-to-day life, not mere caricaturesï¿½
The best part about VIRUDDH is that it remains honest to the plot. There're no forced song-n-dance routines [Oh! What a relief!], no sub-plots to satiate the moviegoer in every state and no superfluous humor to balance the emotional quotient.
In a nutshell, VIRUDDH is the kind of cinema you'd like to watch with your parents, your family, your near-n-dear ones. And yes, do not forget to carry a kerchief when you saunter in a movieplex screening this flick. VIRUDDH is high on substance, without doubt!
VIRUDDH is about an ordinary sixty plus couple, Vidyadhar Patwardhan [Amitabh Bachchan] and Sumi [Sharmila Tagore], who are forced to search for their faith in human values and society after the death of their only son, Amar [John Abraham].
Amar accidentally witnesses a criminal act and loses his life in an attempt to intervene. The couple is extremely saddened by the incident and is bent on getting justice. In the process, they undergo the most testing struggle of their lives.
VIRUDDH doesn't have much of a story in the first half. The film focuses on the principal characters and their interaction with one another. The sequences between Amitabh and Sharmila are interesting and so identifiable, you don't really mind the slow pacing of the narrative.
The sequences between Amitabh and his friends who join him in the park for the morning jog [Prem Chopra, Sharat Saxena, Shivaji Satam] appears straight out of BAGHBAN. Also, the interaction between the conservative mother [Sharmila] and the remaining family members are fun to watch.
The first half, despite the fact that there's not much of a story till the intermission point, is watchable and most importantly, likeable.
The pace doesn't pick up in the post-interval portions. But the story now takes a turn for the better. A few sequences have been handled deftly, especially the sequence when Bachchan visits Amitabh Dayal, the Home Minister's son, who had accidentally pulled the trigger. The sequence is undoubtedly one of the most striking portions of the enterprise, which is well penned [Manjrekar, Yash-Vinay], brilliantly enacted [Bachchan, Dayal] and deftly executed by the director.
But how one wishes the writers would've packed in some more punch-packed sequences in this half. Barring the above-mentioned sequence and the one when Sanju bashes up the lawyer [Sri Vallabh Vyas] in Bachchan's house, this couple versus system saga deserved a few more meaty sequences. Even the climax could've been a bit more novel.
Besides the slow pacing, another drawback of the film is its on-the-face in-film advertising. A subtle way of endorsing products is understandable, but the blatant promotion of Elf engine oil, Western Union money transfer, Nerolac paints and Sandoz tablets is crudely juxtaposed in the narrative. Sadly, Bollywood is yet to master the art of how to merge in-film advertising in the most natural fashion!
This may not be Manjrekar's finest directorial effort [VAASTAV still ranks high, followed by ASTITVA], but the director knows what he's talking. He has handled the subject with utmost sensitivity, without resorting to gimmicks or bowing down to the rundown formulae.
Manjrekar and Yash-Vinay's screenplay is interesting in parts. The background score [Ajay-Atul] could've been far more effective. Cinematography [Vijay Arora] suits the demands of the script. Dialogues [Sanjay Pawar] are straight out of life. Commendable. Editing [Rahul Bhatankar] should've been tighter. Perhaps, the editor fell in love with the narrative, so much that he lost perspective in the bargain!
Amitabh Bachchan dominates the show yet again! The veteran is going through the best phase in his career, with roles offering him scope to go beyond the stereotype. VIRUDDH would've gone for a toss if entrusted in inferior hands, but Bachchan's simple yet powerful performance remains the hallmark of the enterprise. Sharmila Tagore is a pleasure to watch. The actor is natural to the core and carries the most difficult sequences with utmost ease. One hopes to watch this gifted actor in more movies!
Sanjay Dutt has a brief role, but the actor makes his presence felt for sure. The scene when he bashes up the lawyer will be loved by his fans and moviegoers in general. John Abraham is another sincere actor to look forward to. Forget his drop-dead good looks, watch the actor stand on his feet in every sequence that he's there. Anusha Dandekar looks the character.
Sachin Khedekar is first-rate yet again. Amitabh Dayal is in terrific form. He's fantastic in that lengthy sequence with Bachchan, which happens to be the turning point of the film. Prem Chopra, Sharat Saxena, Shivaji Satam, Tom Alter, Ninad Kamat, Atul Kale and Beena are perfect in their parts.
On the whole, VIRUDDH has the merits to remain etched in your memory even after the screening has concluded. At the box-office, the film may be a slow starter, but has the merits to climb the ladder on the strength of the strong emotional quotient and topnotch performances.