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Film Review
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Producer: Nitin Manmohan, Ramgopal Varma
Director : E. Nivas
*ing: Manoj Bajpai, Raveena Tandon, Sayaji Shinde and Special Appearance by Shilpa Shetty
Music: Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy

Released on : November 05, 1999
Approximate Running Time:  2 hours, 20 minutes


Reviewed by: Mohammad Ali Ikram
ali@indolink.com


out of 

You can probably count them on your fingers.  I know I can.  They're the films that each of us think are absolutely perfect.  Flawed though they may be for others, we would give these movies a perfect score, "plus one" even if we were told to nit-pick and rank the films out of a maximum score of a million.  For me, the newest of those perfect movies is young director E. Nivas's Shool.   (This Rampogal Varma protegé is apparently only 23.  Hey, that is my age.)  Not since 1996's Khamoshi: The Musical have I so much fallen in love with a movie.  For all of its flaws in others' minds, I indefiniely maintain that Shool is a film I look forward to seeing over and over again.   I love it for all its positive traits and flaws.

I love the flaw of the lead character, Inspector Samar Pratap Singh (Manoj Bajpai), a man of strict and unwaivering principles.  Samar is out to fulfill his duties and change the world around him, even though fate and the rest of the police force are not with him on the journey.  I love the flaws of Manjari Singh (Raveena Tandon), the quiet and supportive wife too frail to oppose Samar's ways.  Manjari has got a serious door-mat complex, but that is what is so great about her.  She is a very bold and true-to-life depiction of many South East Asian wives.  When the earth crumbles under her, so will Manjari.  I love the flaws of both the Singhs, and their precocious little daughter Sonu.

I love the flaws of Bachoo Yadav (Sayaji Shinde), a ruthless bloke and typical politician.  An egomaniac and power abuser to the hilt, this uneducated villain has got a very interesting idea for how electricity is made.   And you can be sure you cannot argue with him on this matter.  Those who do, like Samar does, have a very unhappy future ahead of them.  (Then again, Yadav's henchmen do not seem to do much better.) 

I love the characters and performances.  E. Nivas and dialogue writer, Anurag Kashyap have worked hard to etch down-to-earth, relevant and likable folks to unfold the film's story.  Plus, Manoj Bajpai is probably India's best actor since Amitabh Bachchan.  I cannot imagine anyone else essaying Samar's role with as much conviction. 

Raveena Tandon pulls the rug out from under our perceptions of her being an average actress, with mostly hip-swinging capabilities.   Here is a vulnerable performance not seen since the great Sridevi flicks of yore.  And Sayaji Shinde is a wonderful find for a villain.  Half the audience will never pick it up, but this actor plays Bachoo's buffoonery and illiteracy with so much serious dedication that you would think he is indeed that stupid in real life.

I love the rustic look and mood of the film.  Non-glamorous in appearance thanks to Hari Nair's camera, the unglamourous colours and realistic sets.  This film gives a true picture of how most honest police officers live in India.  (There are no frills for the Singh family, so it is very poignant when Manjari cries murder at seeing the Rs.25 dish during an irregular visit to a restaurant.)

I love the situational songs used to emphasize narrative points in the movie, instead of being shoved in as time-fillers.  Heck, even Shilpa Shetty's swinging "UP Bihar" ditty makes sense considering Bachoo's earlier excitement at hearing meaningless folks songs on an audio tape. 

I even loved Samar's sermon during the post-climactic scenes.  The film gives us no answer to the many times asked question of how to rid a society of corrupt and power hungry individuals.  One man alone cannot make a difference.   And though Shool comes up with a filmi and patriotic ending, E. Nivas's first directorial venture also emphasizes that many more people must all join hands to make the world a better place to live. 

Cinema is a medium that can encourage much betterment around us, and I am glad that Shool does just that.  The film has a noble message presented through the eyes of a benevolent, yet flawed protagonist.  So as I get ready to watch it a few dozen more times in the next decade, I request you all to also give it a try.  I am almost certain it is a million times better than the mind-numbing and diabetic family fest which has also opened on Diwali 1999.  Try and herald the beginning of a new millenium by welcoming better cinema into your hearts and homes.  E. Nivas and Shool certainly deserve it, but so do we... 

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