Direction: Suhail Tatari
Cast: Sikandar, Gul Panag
Frown. Down, thumbs down, they go on being informed that they have to do a month-long spell of rural service. Surely the no-no-howling medical students are caricatured clowns.
At the outset, Summer 2007, displays the wannabe medicos as dimlit lanterns. Oh dear, they swig gallons of beer, drag at marijuana joints, and go goggle-eyed when a girl in their gang-ho, announces that she’s preggers. In fact, for quite a while your heart sinks. Like it or not, the first-time effort by writer- director Suhail Tatari is visually about as adventurous as a TV soap and expends far too much footage on campus inanities. How you hope for a miracle. Maybe, it’ll improve.
Auspiciously, it does. The screenplay actually touches upon the nitty gritty of campus election politics. Its complexities are beyond diagnosis. So off scoot, three well-heeled students (Sikandar-Arjan Bajwa-Alekh Sangal) for rural service. And they’re accompanied by their female colleagues, a quasi-frivolous sort nicknamed Pepsie (Uvika Chowdhary), and a do-gooder tagged as Mother T (Gul Panag). Indeed, as soon as this group leaves the half-baked-cornball campus, you’re mammothly relieved.
In the event, Tatari deals with the subject of farmers’ suicides and that of a possible panacea in micro-loans, only in the second-half. That’s when the director, at long last, gets to the point.
The point? That the youth needs to be socially responsible and politically aware. If that sounds vaguely Rang De Basanti, so be it. Because your interest is still aroused by the five students’ coming-of-age story on being confronted by stark reality — be it the wretched living conditions, the primeval hospital facilities, and the usurious money-lending potentate of the district.
Subjugated as much as the villagers are, the students become participants in a do-or-die revolution. They side with the local doctor (Ashutosh Rana), corrupt only so that he can play Robin Hood. And with a messianic activist (Sachin Khedekar) who has devised easy loan schemes. Of the opponents, count the manic local lord (Vikram Gokhale, over the top), the creepy crawly politician (smirk-smirk, he goes) and a woman police officer (Cosmetics Queen) who cannot do a jot on being ‘instructed’ by one of those higher-ups-SPs-PCs-ASPs-whatever.
For sure, there is much that is well-intentioned, politically empathetic and cause-centric here. Now only if Tatari could have curbed his zeal to say too much, all in one go. Like the Naxalites-angle which is left dangling in the air.
Clearly, two-three films have been packed here into one bulging carton of 17 reels. A temo-savvy editor, who could have argued on behalf of the larger picture, is conspicuously absent. Plus, there’s the predictable cliché of a rustic item number. Redeemingly, the finale is touching. The end-statistics of the farmer suicides,too, are startling reminders to say the least.
On the tech-side, the cinematography is effective when it travels into authentic village locations. The music is serviceable. Of the cast, Sikandar is believable, avoiding faux glamour throughout. Gul Panag has her endearing moments, vulnerable as the Pollyanna who wants to do the right thing. As the pragmatic doctor, Ashutosh Rana, is impressive. Compassionate but severely flawed, for the patient viewer Summer 2007 is a could-see.