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Subhash K Jha on <i>Bas Ek Pal</i>

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By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Friday, September 15, 2006
Cast: Urmila Matondkar, Sanjay Suri, Juhi Chawla, Rehaan Engineer, Jimmy Shergill.

When after years abroad Nikhil (Suri) walks into the crowded place of pleasure his life changes. He meets the mercurial Anamika (Matondkar) who teases flirts and reduces Nikhil to a lifetime of slavery.

The passion underlining Nikhil's undying love for Anamika also purports to underline the theme's spectral content. But the swelling emotions don't always make it into the frames.

All the characters are in one way or another linked with one another. Even the men Nikhil and Rahul (Shergill) share complex, ambiguous relationships. In one notable moment of tormented confession Nikhil tears off his shirt in front of the paraplegic Rahul and confesses he was raped in jail.

But the crime for which Nikhil went to jail is deflected to another even darker character, the spouse-beating Steve (Rehaan Engineer) whose heartbreakingly fragile wife Ira (Chawla) wants to leave him but can only be liberated in death. ("Till Death Do Us Part"). Guilt runs through the criss-cross of wounded relationships in this film of unstated recriminations.

Upside: None of the five protagonists is a happy person. None of them finds solace comfort, let alone love, in his or her partner. They all seem to be driven more by desire per se than its fruition.

We often wonder what these characters would do if they actually found love! So driven are they by the search for love that they've forgotten where they're heading.

Sachin Krishn's camera captures the conflicts of the characters in striking silhouettes and dark contours. The hints and whispers created through the lens goes a long way in detailing the inner world of the pain-lashed characters.

All five actors penetrate the heart of their characters. Urmila has never looked more tranquil in her torment, and Juhi uses her ability to portray hurt and guilt with minimum effort. Among the male actor Sanjay Suri's eyes follow the course of his character's destiny with pained transparency.

Flipside: The swelling of a Shakespearean passion for Anamika in Nikhil's soul needed to be mapped more meticulously. Tragically the narrative is as restless as the characters. You suspect the tranquility around this battered character comes more from the actress than the editor (Irene Dhar Malik) who cuts across these disembodied lives with ruthless celerity.

Jha's judgment:

Starting off as an authentic take on urbane mores the narrative gets progressively Shakespearean in tone.

Bas Ek Pal is an interesting though flawed study of gender equations in a competitive society where feelings are casualties of ambitions. .... and ambition not only at work-places. The rivalry in the bedroom can be even more cut-throat. Onir knows.

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