Middle-of-the-road movies and that too those that handle black comedy, are far too few in Bollywood. However, whenever films of this genre were produced, many of them from ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ to ‘Peepli [Live]’ went on to achieve cult status.
Actor Rajat Kapoor, who in the past has directed a number of films with dark humor, has come up with yet another black comedy ‘Ankhon Dekhi’. The storyline delightfully fit into the backdrop of Old Delhi with its rickety houses, and narrow, crowded lanes and by lanes, largely reminds the viewer of the television serials of the 1980s, especially ‘Hum Log’, with overabundant characters.
Set in the present day, the films opens with a monologue by an unseen Bauji (Sanjay Mishra excelling), a man in his late fifties, which expresses his freedom from the burdens of regular, dreary life. The story is then narrated in flashback with members of Bauji’s joint family – Amma, his wife (Seema Pahwa), Rishi, his brother (Rajat Kapoor), Chachi, Rishi’s wife (Taranjit Kaur), and Shammi, Bauji’s son (Chandrachoor Rai) worried about Rita, Bauji’s daughter (Maya Sarao) because she is dating Ajju, a local unemployed lad (Namit Das). The family members subsequently seek police help and Rishi even beats up Ajju. Bauji, however, is not convinced about Ajju’s ‘projected’ immoral character, and in a fit of self-realisation announces that he would henceforth not believe in anything that he has not seen with his own eyes. For him hearsay becomes a dangerous thing.
The decision results in various sympathetic as well as comic situations, beginning with Bauji resigning from his service in a travel agency as he cannot issue tickets to the clients travelling to foreign countries, due to his inability to convince them about the weather in these countries, as he has not personally experienced the weather. The resignation results in a split in the family, as Rishi is not interested in shouldering the burden of the joint family. He leaves the house and sets up his own establishment.
The storyline is then interspersed with a wide variety of characters like that of the local priest, his sneaky ‘stool pigeon’ son, neighbourhood sycophants, a mathematics teacher and many more, who lead the plot to bizarre situations, including Bauji working as an in-house gambler for a local gambling den. Rita and Ajju’s typical Delhi wedding forms the climax of the film, after which Bauji and Amma visit a hill station only to witness the self-realisation of Bauji leading the film to an open end.
Strong, natural performances are the strength of ‘Ankhon Dekhi’. Each character, led by Sanjay Mishra as Bauji, is pitch-perfect and reflects the life in Old Delhi, earlier seen in ‘Delhi-6’. In fact, the film is performance based, rather than being supported by its story. Small incidents are woven together to lead the plot that has philosophical overtones forward, due to which the film falters a bit along the way.
Rajat Kapoor has adequately directed the film, however he repeats the errors seen in his previous directorial ventures like ‘Raghu Romeo’, ‘Mixed Doubles’, ‘Mithya’ and ‘Fatso!’. The rough edges of the films, which should have been edited out, render the production slack.
‘Ankhon Dekhi’ interestingly features a very unique soundtrack combining Indian classical melodies with modern rhythms. The score composed by Saagar Desai, with lyrics by Varun Grover, presents numbers including ‘Aaj laagi laagi nai dhoop’ and ‘Aayi bahaar’, both wonderfully sung by Kailash Kher. The production values smell of the earth.
All in all, ‘Ankhon Dekhi’ could have been better, but still deserves a visit, especially if one wants to go back to films that had the common man as the protagonist, bringing a smile to our lips and a tear to our eye.