‘Mantra’ explores film-making and life, Film Review

The opening scene of the film is in Delhi, where the smoke of a disturbed political environment meets you. The cinematography does that to your senses. Kapil Kapoor (Rajat Kapoor) is watching television, suavely. Next morning he is at a factory and a worker is making a racket about the pay: Kapil kicks him out and the rawness of the city begins to pour into the film. Also, Rajat is at his enchanting best.


Photo credit: Indian Express

Pia (Kalki Koechlin ) works as a chef and her role in the film is mellowed down; unlike the larger than life role she plays in Bollywood, sometimes. The film becomes lively and realistic. It feels like a friendly film. In a scene the whole family is sitting together and it is quite a charming cut. Shades of each character visible in ways. In the era, it appears a family rarely sits together for food.

In the movie Pia plays the daughter of Kapil. The story takes on chunks of many many issues in its canvas. For example when Pia  tells her mom (Lushin Dubey) that it is ok to be attracted to another man, it does point to some stereotypes in our society.

In a scene, the son (Pranav Sehgal) is doing cyber-sex and also through a web cam; taking a bath for his cyber lover. His mom comes and scolds him, but he does not care. The scene collects the dirt of everyday life of post-liberalisation-intenet-boom days and yes the grossness touches you.

The politics, the casual sex, soliciting, the Delhi parties in white bungalows in big cars and discoes: It’s veritably Delhi of the nineties, But, somewhere amidst this a good man wants to survive; like Rajat’s chips company. The cinematography of the film is friendly, yet so realistic and hard hitting. Guess, the director could draw from some of Rajat’s Werner Herzog influences.Such films do have the penetration of journalism to unmounted stories from underneath; catch the trends in culture and probably clean it. It’s observation and awareness that is used in human psyche to erase disease; probably such hard hitting films mellow our subconscious to ease them in untold ways.

Even pointing to such problems is a suggestion to law makers to take notice. Then there are relationship problems in the family, business problems, individual growth issues.  Everyone is suffering but has put on the cloak of sheer coolness. No one is confident enough to make clear decisions. Yet you exist in society. A party scene has friends enjoying, they say jokingly that they swap there wives ; and it’s very true. There is like little space for Kierkkegardian ethics (who says good and evil is depended on God). Here everything is in your hands.


Photo Credit: Indian Express

There is also a conflict of generation; like the dad asking the son  what is happening with Mantra Company, and the son says things are going ok. The son says that he was lucky because he had his ‘nana.’ The film does capture the struggle of an era, edging-moving into another era; pushing the past into the past and embracing the future.

Also, India Shining had different perspective for people. Rajat plays a very calm, chilled out guy. The film moves along the subtle nuances of filmmaking. A script which has many stories in it, deals with a kind of documentarish-cinematography is soft filmmaking on emotional content. Its intelligent cinema on the periphery and will certainly find a connect withthe audience worldwide. Breakthroughs in art comes through exploring the periphery in an outsiders perspective, and Kalki , Rajat have mastered it; be it here plays or movies.

Such films also teach you to make films. I saw the movie twice, once at Lost the Plot and then another venue. One watch does not reveal the subtext, boredom of the director; trickling to the audience. The first screening was like being introduced to the team, the second to the film.

The director has very finely used issues in the trend of the generation, like a Harold Pinter play. And that is where the a good script contributes;to take the pulsating life from the script, to the director and the team ; and share it with an audience in low budget films; is hallmark of a tour de force thought.

Also, in the first watch, I found the film too hard hitting. In the next I discovered the suaveness of Rajat Kapoors acting. He does not like to use too many expressions on his face. Yet, in the end he completes the film, sitting in a Tom Hanks pose at the end. Still understanding life, comprehending it; being moved and yet intact! The film is just 90 minutes and has so many issues. Good exploration of the craft of film making!

Cast: Rajat Kapoor, Kalki Koechlin, Shiv Pandit, Adil Hussain, Lushin Dubey, Shantanu Anam, Ranjit Batra, Pranav Sehgal, Prashant Sehgal, Yuri Suri

 Director: Nicholas Kharkongor

Cinematography: Harmeet Basur

Director Of Photography: None

Venue and official release partner : Lost The Plot