Review - Welcome to Sajjanpur: A refreshing refresher on the situation in rural India

wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)
quick review:

Serious issues that plague the life of villagers are presented with clever sarcasm. The style of narration is a bit artificial but makes for an interesting watch.

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Wogma Review

"Knock-knock" "Anyone there?" "You...you the multiplex cine-goer...yeah, yeah you - we've made this for you...a collage of the horrors that the interiors of the country suffers from... "Worry not dearies, we've masked it with a dose of humor to make it palatable."

Yes, Welcome to Sajjanpur is here to educate us of the situation in rural India, with a slightly patronizing tone. And it does a good job of it too. The seriousness is toned down with wit albeit slapsticky at a few places. It tries to sensitize without being overtly sensitive. Which is why villagers might find their issues being trivialized. Issues that they have to grapple with in on a day-to-day basis. Without any qualms, the movie refuses to offer solutions. "That's not our job", it says. We have just taken it upon ourselves to let you know this is what's happening in there.

Look here, a mere signature is literacy in the census, animal rights are taking precedence over human livelihood, "widow remarriage" is a privilege. Sure, you knew that superstition and blind faith seep through the country's veins, that 'politician' is synonymous with 'goon' and farmers sell organs to keep afloat. But, might as well reinforce their existence. Oh, by the way, while we are at it, let us remind you that there is no need to shake off a eunuch with disgust! You know what, though, all these things don't necessarily have to end badly, there are alternative outcomes.

That's a whole lot of ground to cover. Using one or two colorful, relatively well-etched out characters each, Benegal highlights issue after issue to form the montage of a village, Sajjanpur. The narrative tone topped up with a border-line loud Shreyas Talpade started getting to me in the first 10 minutes. And throughout, I was wondering, "why this tone?" Why are characters disappearing? My suggestion, don't be fidgety like me, there's a reason for that and you'll know when you need to know.

Similarly, the songs add to the unrealistic feel. Besides doing their bit to maintain the light tone of the film, they are the way they are for a reason. I'd just enjoy the rhythm that adds to the mood of the village - this group of people who don't lose their smile despite the trying circumstances.

Flipside, of course, is that they add to the length of the movie. And that's one place where Welcome to Sajjanpur misses the mark big time. It needed to be at least 15-20 minutes shorter. And this is despite the climax being rushed up. Maybe they were just trying something different in the narrative style, but it felt like a quick fix.

The other thing was the accent. For some reason, it came across as forced. One reason could be that Rajeshwari Sachdev and Amrita Rao have a city-bred image that is difficult to shake off. Add to that the fact that they show up in non-village-like attire every once in a while. While Amrita was charming as the wife pining for her husband to come back to her, Rajeshwari looked really uncomfortable in the whole set-up.

Smart-alec with a heart, Mahadev (Shreyas Talpade), keeps you curious throughout. How is he going to put his emotions in the next letter he writes for one of the villagers? You want his dreams to come true, however murky the morals behind them be. Am I the only one who thinks Shreyas does an Amol Palekar every once in a while? Each of the other cast members too adds his/her flavor to the village ambience. But, one who stood out was Ila Arun. I can so imagine her as one of my aunts from my native village.

You read the newspaper and go on with your day. You'll, in all probability, watch this movie, maybe applaud the effort, and go on with your life. There will be no long-lasting impact, but maybe, just maybe the stories will stay with you.

- meeta, a part of the audience

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Two gory scenes.
  • Sexual content: Nothing too sensuous.
  • Concept: The movie tries to touch upon all the burning issues in rural India with a lighter vein. So, it might be a good way to introduce the issues to young minds above 10 or so.
  • General Look and Feel: The attempt is to keep the ambience light, colorful and playful.

Welcome to Sajjanpur - Movie Details

Welcome to Sajjanpur - Trailer

Comments (4)

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chavanni:

http://chavannichap.blogspot.com/2008/09/blog-post_368.html

meetu:

@ Cinefreak, I try my best not to be inconsistent. I'm sorry, if I sound that way. I certainly liked the movie, and like always, despite its faults.
The village is squeaky clean, because it is Mahadev's idolized view of his village.
The letter-writer is not with a heart of gold. He is manipulating the life of the woman he loves to the best possible manner. He does things out of fear, he lies.
A romance that is half-broken, is that not real? Would have liked a hunky-dory happy ending?

"the scenes seem to be written for the lines and the message rather than the other way around"

Yeah because it is a novel written by a person from a village who doesn't have training in novel-writing. He's just writing where his emotions lie.

I'm not lauding it because it has a rural theme. The satire worked for me, especially because it wasn't preachy.

Every time democracy is mentioned it is very sarcastic.

@ Arpit, thanks! And yeah, for me one of the main reasons the movie worked is because of the concept in the climax. It was rushed, but it makes you rethink about what was fictional and what was reality in the last 2 hours.

@Paras, glad you enjoyed it!

meetu:

cool Vivek, so what was your take?

meetu:

Thanks, vivek!

And Ramkumar...what can I say man...I just don't like writing about the story!

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