Novel Redemption

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SIDDHARTH – THE PRISONER begins well. A Booker Prize nominated author has just been released from jail. An educated man, once a part of the comfortable middle class, has hit bottom, lost his reputation, his wife and family. He has no money, status. All he has is his imagination, an old typewriter and his conscience. With that, he sets off to reclaim his life. Unmindful of his squalid surroundings, he pours forth a novel, through which he hopes to redeem himself and regain his family and reputation. By a twist of fate, the only copy of his manuscript gets exchanged with a Mumbai don’s briefcase stashed with Rs. 24 lakhs at an internet cafe. Also caught inadvertently in this twist is the earnest, honest shopkeeper Mohan, who is unjustly punished by the mafia for the loss. An interesting premise indeed.

What will Siddharth do? Keep the money? Or will his conscience triumph? What in the first place did he do to break his middle class values that landed him in jail? And Mohan, will he find and return the money to his bosses? Or will he, too, break free from his prison of fear, servility, and loyalty and run?

Is incarceration (prison) only physical or also in the mind? Why do we make the choices we make in life? The movie, unfortunately, leaves these important questions unanswered. The inner struggles of the protagonists remain mostly in the director’s mindscape and aren’t translated well enough on screen.

This is the second release from the stables of Walkwater Media; Victory having bombed, this film too is headed that way. Sad, for its good to see production houses taking chances with unconventional scripts and new directors.

There’s a thin line dividing unconventional and experimental cinema. Directed by debutante Pryas Gupta, this film maybe too abstract and esoteric for multiplex audiences. It seems more suited for festivals, judging by the fact that I was THE ONLY and I repeat — THE ONLY person in the hall on a saturday afternoon. The slow pace is of an art house European or Iranian film and Indian audiences aren’t ready for minimal dialogue and long silences. What might’ve been a watchable film is ultimately a test of your endurance. Pity, because the film is shot well. Rajat Kapoor and Sachin Nayak have put in real gritty performances and Pryas Gupta — as editor, writer, director, producer has put in some explorative and innovative work.