Splitting a universal tragedy into its components comes with the danger of the parts being consumed by the vastness of the collective predicament. It is to director Naseeruddin Shah’s credit that YHTKH as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But the parts do their bit - they engrave the grimness of the catastrophe indelibly in the mind.
The four strands of the plot are kept unconnected in the first half of the film. Everybody seems to be going about their lives so comfortably that you begin to wonder why a film had to be made about them at all. But when the tracks begin to come together, Shah masterfully builds up a sense of foreboding. And suddenly you are too horrified to react….
We shall leave the plot at that. But we shall speak about some good performances instead. Paresh Rawal as Rajubhai Patel, Irrfan as a drug-snorting stockbroker and Ratna Pathak as the beleaguered Marathi film extra, Tara, are memorable.
Konkona Sen Sharma makes this film with multiple characters appear her own. She puts in another superlative portrayal as the newly-married-through-the-Net wife of a Non-Resident Indian, Tilottama Punj.
We had minor problems with the characterisation. It was difficult to understand why Tilottama’s mother-in-law had to be an American woman with an Indian passport. Or why Khushboo (played by Ayesha Takia) should be in the care of an intimidating butler.
But the film works. To the extent these remain minor lapses in what is essentially an unsentimental handling of one of the greatest horrors of our times - from an Indian standpoint. Hemant Chaturvedi’s camera helps us discover once more what newspapers and television channels couldn’t have.