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By: Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM

Monday, May 15, 2006

When Anubhav Sinha must've thought of remaking Nick Cassavetes' Hollywood film John Q. [2002; Denzel Washington], his intentions were extremely noble. The story of a father, who could cross all limits to save the life of his child, can strike a chord with any person living in India or Timbuktu.

But the problem with Tathastu is that it comes too late in the day. Meaning, as viewers, we've already witnessed innumerable movies on roughly the same subject, of a man's lone fight against the system. Only the issue keeps changing in film after film.

Nothing wrong if a concept is repeated by a storyteller. After all, every craftsman has his way of interpreting a story. But Tathastu is a sound idea with noble intentions that goes awry because of a poorly crafted screenplay [writers: Yash-Vinay] and mediocre direction.

The only redeeming feature in the entire enterprise is Sanjay Dutt, who enacts the role of a desperate father who has run out of legal options and can think of no other alternative but to point a gun. But the best of performances [and all commercial trappings] can never really substitute for a refreshing story.

In a nutshell, Tathastu is like a good opportunity wasted!

Ravi [Sanjay Dutt] works in an automobile company. His wife Sarita [Amisha Patel] and 8-year-old kid Gaurav [Yash Pathak] are his world. The story takes a turn when his son collapses while playing cricket. He is diagnosed with a hole in his heart and needs heart transplant operation. Ravi is asked to raise Rs. 15 lacs to save his son's life by the surgeon [Darshan Jariwala]. But can Ravi afford such a big sum at such a short notice?

Ravi tries to get it the right way. Asking for help from his office, the insurance company, the loan sharks... But no one responds to his pleas, while his son does not respond to medication. With time and options running out, a desperate gamble becomes Ravi's only hope: He takes the emergency room hostage.

Ravi barricades himself inside the hospital along with his unwitting group of emergency room hostages, many of them in need of medical care themselves. The police try their best to talk him out of it. His wife, a doctor [Jaya Pradha], a cop [Anoop Soni] and millions of ordinary people join his battle. Can a helpless father beat the system?

Tathastu's underlying concept has a great deal of relevance in today's world. With a number of medical institutions beyond a common man's financial reach, the message this film intends conveying is pretty evident at the start itself.

But writers Yash-Vinay's screenplay is divorced from reality and that's why the film cannot be taken seriously. From the moment Sanju storms into the hospital and takes over, believability goes out of the window. There is no way that a lone man, untrained in fighting and with only a small gun, could take over the wing of a hospital, hold off the entire police force and turn into an instant hero while threatening to kill innocent people.

Even the political angle that's juxtaposed in the narrative -- a top politician wanting the heart transplant, failing which the government would fall like a pack of cards -- is another spoke in the wheel. Showing politicians as slimy and spineless may've suited the writers, but it just doesn't suit the mood of the film. In fact, the entire political drama, including the finale when Lalit Tiwari, the conniving politician, suddenly appears on the scene, looks like a screenplay of convenience and a complete compromise from the writing point of view.

Even the hostages are a grossly caricatured bunch. The portions depicting the battered housewife, a prostitute and even an aged stock market broker could've been juxtaposed in the narrative far more interestingly. Even the caustic remarks by the ward boy [Manoj Pahwa] are more like a sermon.

Director Anubhav Sinha is letdown by a script that is actually real, but has been presented in the most unreal manner. Also, the proceedings tend to get too grim after a point. And when hope surfaces in the end, you don't want to jump with joy either. Cinematography [Ravi Walia] is okay. Given the premise of the film, there's no scope for music [Vishal-Shekhar] and the lone qawwali that has been injected is strictly okay.

There are times when you forget the deficiencies in the script thanks to a sincere and skilled performance by Sanjay Dutt. In fact, one is seeing a new Sanju of late. First Zinda and now Tathastu, 2006 is a turning point in this talented actor's career.

Amisha Patel fails to deliver. The actor ought to know that her role is that of a helpless, lower middle class housewife, but look at her styling: Highlighted hair and nail polish intact. Even after investing years in the industry, some people don't take the craft seriously.

Jaya Pradha is wasted. Gulshan grover is his usual self. Darshan Jariwala is competent. Manoj Pahwa and Lalit Tiwari are alright. Ravi Jhankal makes an impression. Anoop Soni is passable.

On the whole, Tathastu is a real story which tends to get unreal as it progresses. At the box-office, the lack of hype coupled with dull merits will make it go unnoticed.

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