Years ago, a popular TV series MALGUDI DAYS left an indelible impression on the minds of viewers. Now Shyam Benegal's WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR takes you back to a hamlet that has its share of assorted characters: a letter writer, a power-hungry goon, a eunuch, a short tempered army man and his widowed daughter-in-law, a compounder, a house wife who's husband, working in Mumbai, hasn't showed up for four Diwalis... These are characters you've seen, witnessed, might even relate to.
Actually, WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR is more on the lines of a Hrishikesh Mukherjee film. It's not heavy on your mind, even though there's ample drama happening every now and then. But everything is presented without going overboard.
WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR works because of its simplicity. Expect no glitz-n-glam here. In fact, it doesn't even have a strong plot since it's a character-driven film. Yet, WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR keeps your interest alive in most parts.
Final verdict? Watch WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR for its simplicity. Its strength lies in its story and how well a seasoned director like Shyam Benegal narrates it. Let's just say, WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR is certainly welcome!
Mahadev [Shreyas Talpade] is one of the few educated young men in Sajjanpur. His ambition is to be a novelist, but finds it easier to make a living by writing and reading letters sitting next to the post office. His ability to write persuasive letters makes him popular with the largely non-literate population of the town.
Aware of this power, he soon uses his talent to manipulate people with amusing and sometimes not such amusing results.
Shyam Benegal may be best known for intense films, but as you watch WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR, it dawns upon you that he's equally proficient when it comes to light entertainers. The character portrayed by Shreyas and his interaction with various people make the proceedings exciting.
Note his scenes with the goonda who's aiming to be a politician [Yashpal Sharma] or one of the orthodox ladies of the village [Ila Arun]. Even the romantic scenes with his childhood sweetheart [Amrita Rao], now married to someone else, are cute. The twists and turns in the second hour are the best part of the enterprise. Also, the end is very novel.
On the flip side, the unwarranted songs in the narrative spoil the show. Ideally, the film could've done without any song. Besides, the length should've been controlled.
Every actor in WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR delivers a sparkling performance, but the show belongs to Shreyas Talpade. This is his most accomplished performance since IQBAL. Amrita Rao is admirable. It's at par with VIVAH. Yashpal Sharma [terrific], Ila Arun [superb], Divya Dutta [effective], Ravi Kissen [wonderful], Rajeshwari [nice] and Ravi Jhankal [exceptional] are delightful. Kunal Kapoor's presence comes as a surprise.
On the whole, WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR is an interesting watch. At the box-office, the film has the potential to go from strength to strength with a positive word of mouth.