I couldn't help but recall three films while watching Kaccha Limboo - Gulzar's Kitaab , Ritwik Ghatak's Bari Theke Paliye [Bengali; 1959] and celebrated French director Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows aka Les Quatre Cents Coups [French; 1959]. These three films had great stories to tell [of a misunderstood adolescent], but among the three, Kaccha Limboo bears a striking resemblance to Kitaab, which, in my opinion, ranks amongst Gulzar's best works. However, unlike Kitaab, which remains well etched in our memory even after three decades, Kaccha Limboo runs out of gas after an interesting first hour.
Kaccha Limboo suffers due to a sketchy screenplay, also penned by Ballary. In fact, the post-interval portions ruin the impact that was beautifully created after a fairly engrossing first hour. One would've expected Ballary to explore the infatuation angle in the story or the cracks that develop between the adolescent and his parents. Instead, the story wanders to an alien territory in the second hour and I actually wondered, did Ballary intend telling a fresh story in the second half? That's not all! The story goes on and on and on and on… so much so that you fervently pray that it reaches its culmination pronto. But Ballary messes up the conclusion too.
Makes me wonder if Bheja Fry was a fluke. Or was it just a flash in the pan? In fact, I would consider it disrespectful if anyone compares the brilliant Taare Zameen Par with this slapdash effort!
Shambhu [Taher Sutterwala] is a 13-year-old teenager who falters consistently. Trouble at school, peer pressure and a half-baked romance, all contribute to his woes. A huge fight with some local boys and a stern warning from the School Principal deepens his crisis and running away from home seems like a solution.
On his journey of self-realization and discovery, Shambhu bumps into Vitthal [Chinmay Kambli], an extremely smart kid who belongs to a nearby fisherman colony. Shambhu is mesmerized by this new world he encounters with Vitthal. Everything is in such stark contrast to the world he had just left behind. And everything worked just fine until a sudden turn of events force Vitthal and Shambhu to set out on a train journey in search of a place where they can find the freedom they desire.
Kaccha Limboo starts off really well, with Ballary handling the material with great care. Childhood can be a delight, but in today's chaotic world, the kids are often exposed to the realities of adulthood very early in their life. The incidents depicted in the film's first hour [peer pressure, puppy love, familial frustrations and high-school dilemmas] seem so real, as if they were borrowed from your, mine, our lives. The incidents, anecdotes, occurrences and episodes are worth noting, especially Shambhu's interaction with his classmates and also with his parents [with his father in particular]. In fact, the viewer is introduced to Shambhu's grumpy and irritable nature at the very outset, when Vinay Pathak and Rukhsaar, family friends, are invited home for dinner. The kid experiences the lonely stages at home and also at school and the film offers an insight into the emotional confusion that he experiences, besides creating a touching awareness of his unspoken agonies.
But, like I pointed out earlier, Kaccha Limboo goes haywire in the post-intermission portions. One only expects Ballary to come up with a much better second hour, but you feel exasperated after a point. The film ends abruptly, leaving the viewer wondering what really happened to Vitthal, who fell off the train? Also, why is Shambhu felicitated by the School Principal? Did Shambhu actually commit some act of bravery to merit a felicitation in his school? If yes, what was it? No explanations are offered, frankly!
Ballary has injected a couple of songs in the narrative and though at least two numbers are decent, the song in the fishermen colony was just not required. In fact, it only makes the proceedings lengthier. I would like to make a special mention of the dialogue, which are wonderful at places.
Talking of performances, Sarika is natural, while Atul Kulkarni handles his part with ease. The show actually belongs to the kids - Taher and Chinmay - who are the real stars of the enterprise. Taher delivers a spontaneous, deep and convincing performance, while Chinmay catches your attention with a splendid performance. In fact, it is Chinmay who makes vital portions of the second hour come alive with his bindaas portrayal. The remaining kids, each of them, are complete natural. Rajesh Khattar is effective. Iravati Harshe does well, but where does she disappear suddenly? Bhairavi Goswami gets no scope. Vinay Pathak, in a cameo, is passable. Ditto for Rukhsaar.
On the whole, Kaccha Limboo comes across as an unripe and undeveloped effort. Disappointing!
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