More and more film-makers are borrowing stories from real life. Giving shape to stories or incidents they believe in. Stories that provoke thinking and divert your attention towards issues that we otherwise brush aside. Director Mahesh Pandey's 332 - Mumbai To India attempts to chronicle an incident that occurred almost two years ago in Mumbai.
But let me clarify at the outset that 332 - Mumbai To India is not a documentary on Rahul Raj, as is widely understood, but tries to portray the incident and its repercussions [from the director's point of view]. In fact, the director has clubbed yet another incident to the main story, which is not connected to the bus hijack episode even remotely - 26/11.
Though interesting in parts, 332 - Mumbai To India left me with mixed feelings at the end of the screening. Ideally, the film should've been a hard-hitting drama or a pragmatic interpretation of an occurrence, but what comes across on screen, in the final tally, is a tame experience. It is provoking intermittently; it kept me hooked in parts, not in its entirety. The film ends on a positive note, but the question that crossed my mind was, does it offer any answer or solution to the very issue that it raised in the film? The question that crossed my mind was, will it change the perception and thought processes of those from Bihar as well as from Maharashtra towards each other? Most importantly, has the incident made any difference to anyone's life or is it just a case of one more precious life sacrificed towards a cause not many are concerned about? The answers offered, in my opinion, are unrealistic, a contrast to the essence of the film.
332 - Mumbai To India is about the North Indian versus Mumbaikars issue. The story begins when Rahul Raj hijacks Bus No. 332, which plies between Andheri and Kurla. The film peeps into the lives of several characters and the problems they encounter during that day. These include a young writer from U.P., an auto rickshaw driver, a couple and three students.
Exactly a month after this incident, the terrorist attack on Taj [26/11] occurs. Mumbaikars decide to hold a candle march to Taj. These characters also take part in it and realize that their fight, solely because they belong to different states, is uncalled for and the strength lies in unity.
Director Mahesh Pandey attempts to merge realism [the Rahul Raj incident] and fiction [the multiple stories, which are not connected to one another], but the outcome lacks force. From the execution point of view, the bus hijack portions are well handled, but the multiple stories don't leave the desired impact. Let me elaborate...
Director Mahesh Pandey has handled the core incident deftly. The interview to a news channel is hair-raising and comes across as shockingly real. But I am told that the names mentioned in this interview have been beeped/muted, which would dilute the impact for sure. But Mahesh falters in weaving the multiple stories in one thread. Also, at places, one feels that the director tilts towards the North Indians, which should've been avoided. He ought to know that in a film that talks of a true incident, the storyteller shouldn't take sides. In fact, the perspective of the Maharashtrians should've been highlighted as well.
The film has a host of characters, but the ones that portray their parts most convincingly are Vijay Mishra [who enacts the role of a rebellious North Indian student], Mayank Sharma [acts as a writer in the TV industry] and the actor who enacts the role of Rahul Raj. Sharbani Mukerji, Chetan Pandit and Ali Asgar are alright.
On the whole, 332 - Mumbai To India attempts to raise several pertinent questions, but the impact is amiss.
Director: Mahesh Pandey
Cast: Vijay Mishra, Mayank Sharma, Rahul Raj, Sharbani Mukerji, Chetan Pandit, Ali Asgar