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Panchlait movie review: An ode to Raj Kapoor and rural India

Panchlait movie review: The caste divisions, class issues are beautifully embedded in the film, much like the original story and the makers have also added new layers to Renu’s original story.

movie reviews Updated: Nov 19, 2017 16:26 IST
Sweta Kaushal
Sweta Kaushal
Hindustan Times
Panchlait movie review,Panchlait review,Panchlait
Panchlait movie review: The film is based on Phanishwar Nath Renu’s short story by the same name.

Prem Prakash Modi
Cast: Amitosh Nagpal, Anuradha Mukherjee
Rating: 2.5/5

Renowned Hindi writer Phanishwar Nath Renu’s first brush with Bollywood was the legendary Teesri Kasam (1966) – an adaptation of his short story, Maare Gaye Gulfam. Decades after the Raj Kapoor gem, Renu’s short story, Panchlait, forms the basis of a film.

Panchlait begins by paying respect to Raj Kapoor and throughout the journey, we are constantly reminded of him and Awara . The protagonist, Amitosh Nagpal playing Godhan, often dresses as Raj Kapoor, apes his mannerisms and has the music of Awara playing in the background whenever he delivers emotional monologues.

The film is set in a Bihar village in 1954, and majorly talks about the Mahato community. An orphaned Godhan arrives at his maternal village, planning to settle down with his childhood sweetheart Munri (Anuradha Mukherjee) but ends up antagonising the elders of the village and her mom. How he wins back their hearts forms the crux of the film.

The pressurised paraffin lamp, also known as panchlait (Petromax), is used as a symbol to highlight the transition of villagers from darkness to light. The caste divisions, class issues are beautifully embedded in the film, much like the original story.

Director Prem Prakash Modi and writer Rakesh Kumar Tripathi have added layers to Renu’s original story. They have offered a background for Godhan and an elaborate love story has been developed between him and Munri. Narrated in a non-linear format, Panchlait keeps shifting between flashbacks and the present day (1954 in the film) and it adds to the theatrical form of the film.

Godhan acts as the sootradhar or the narrator of the film that unfolds like a play, and his character often talks directly to the camera, taking the audience through the non-linear flashbacks.

But over-the-top theatrical gestures used in the film are rather repulsive. At times, Amitosh Nagpal’s and Anuradha Mukherjee’s characters seem to be caricaturing 50s cinema when acting was mainly about gestures. They are, however, better when they are not together. While the supporting cast mostly remains in their character, the lead actors seem to be confused and often swing between eras. Sometimes, they don the typical village attire and hairstyle suitable for the 50s but, at times, flaunt well-designed suits and kurtas, alongwith salon-styled hair that mar the entire earthy feel of the film. They also lose grip over their accent too often.

Watch Panchlait trailer here:

While some of the changes and novel elements in Renu’s story bring an extra element of social relevance to the film, Panchlait may have been better off without the over-done romantic track.

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First Published: Nov 19, 2017 16:25 IST