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Movie Review: Welcome to Sajjanpur (Hindi) 67

Genre: Drama

For a movie maker of the caliber of Shayam Benegal is, it goes without saying with his invite to Sajjanpur comes along a bouquet of expectations. The only other movie of his that I’ve seen is Zubaidaa and I was amazed at his story telling quality! This time, the setting is rustic with characters from a usual random village. The film is presented as a slice of life from the perspective of the protagonist than a story with a beginning and end.

Mahadev, the only degree holder in Sajjanpur nurses ambitions to be a novel writer someday, but fate has sealed him to writing letters for the illiterate village folk who come to him not just for his knowledge of the letter but also for his ability to write with that extra zing and passion that makes the letters work. Playing the protagonist, Shreyas Talpade gets the largest of movie pie that he executes with brilliance without going overboard.

Our writer’s clientele takes us through the minds of the varied village folk. It ranges from his childhood crush Kamla (Amrita Rao) who writes to her far away husband, a mother (Ila Arun) worried about her vibrant daughter’s (Divya Dutta) horoscope, a compounder (Ravi Kishan) who is deeply in love with the young widow Shobharani (Rajeshwari Sachdev), the villainous ex-Sarpanch Ramlal (Yashpal Sharma) and a Eunuch too.

The next couple of hours, which at times feels somewhat stretched, give us a glimpse of their lives. Mahadev is good at heart and does well to others, but he secretly tries to misread letters to Kamla thinking that he may have a chance if her husband went away. Ramlal tries his best to connive against the Eunuch Munnibai to ensure it doesn’t win the local elections. As is life, in the end, it’s happy for some sad for others.

Throughout the movie, its poignant moments are interspersed so delicately that you don’t feel any character being out of place. The best in my opinion is when Mahadev learns the truth about Kamala’s husband’s life, where Shreyas’ flowing emotions are so well portrayed. Then there is the scene of Munnibai getting a letter written seeking protection. For one, the music is not memorable and the seeming length may bother.

The characters of Sajjanpur are both simpletons at times and wise in the ways of the world when necessary. The movie makes a point on various serious social issues including land acquisitions for industrialization, struggle of the poor and fall into organ trade, widow remarriage, superstitions, job worry for the educated and many more. If you don’t mind the lack of typical stories and climaxes, this story is surely worth watching.

Rating: 7/10 – This is not a Comedy! Watch it if you enjoy fine storytelling!
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