Reviewed by Anand Kannan, Toronto

Rating :

The lobby is terribly crowded. You sweat despite the Toronto winter. The screaming babies, and the fat lady forcing you off her way with her elbow evoke a strong sense of deja vu. "The movie had better be good", you think, "if I have to endure all this".

It was. I wouldn't call this the best of Mani Ratnam. Nayakan was. But good acting, a socially conscious theme and a quick pace make the movie well worth watching.

There is not much by way of story, so I won't spoil things for you. Read on. The story starts somewhere in a village in Thirunelveli district (TN). (Question, does Thirunelveli dt. have seashore?) I just love the Tamil accent of the district, and am worried the beauty of the language and some jokes may get lost in the Hindi version.

The pretty Manisha Koirala and handsome Arvind Swamy fall in love at first sight. (Mani Rathnam's characters don't waste much time in falling in love, but this is good even by their standards.) They elope to get married, but don't live happily ever after. The Bombay riots break out, and the family gets caught in it.

Mani has wrapped the bitter facts in chocolate. All the songs and the love story are exhausted by the intermission and you have an inkling it is going to be serious stuff thereafter. The movie sticks to the theme and runs like a powerful, frank documentary in the second half.

You can see that the director has carefully balanced the Hindu and Muslim atrocities. They happen in a meticulously alternated sequence! The movie ends abruptly, (censor?) and you half-expect a card saying "Mera Bharat Mahaan"!

Nasar is brilliant. (He plays the pious Hindu and I think Kitty, a Hindu, plays Manisha's muslim father - hats off Mani).

I grudgingly admit that Rahman has done an excellent job of the re-recording. Chitra is incredible in "Kannalane". Who is the girl dancing for "Anda Arabic kadaloram" with Prabhu Deva? Some new Hindi heroine I think. Song sequences and dances are spectacular, as we have come to expect of Mani.

A reminder that our barbaric instincts are alive and that we haven't drawn lessons from the horrors of partition.

Not a perfect movie, but better than anything I've seen of late. See it on the big screen.

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