Our Not Just Bollywood season continues showcasing a collection of Indian independent films rarely screened on British screens. Aquinas College film student Rachel Burton reviews Ankhon Dekhi…
Rajat Kapoor tells a beautiful story about Bauji, a middle-aged man from Old Delhi, superbly played by Sanjay Mishra, whose life is changed by a random but eye-opening event. Believing a rumour about the boy his daughter is in love with causes Bauji to rethink his way of life, to only believe what he has seen through his own eyes. He abandons all that he already knows, or has been told, unless he has experienced it himself.
His journey starts with him resigning from his job as a travel agent. He refuses to tell a customer that a flight to Amsterdam will take eight hours, because, whilst that is stated on the website, he has never flown there himself. His new approach to life becomes more extreme and to his bemusement, he gains disciples. One of his followers is the teacher of his nephew with whom he argues, stating that parallel lines do not meet in infinity, causing the teacher, ultimately, to quit his job and join Bauji.
The story has an elegant, circular motion but sways from side to side, touching upon various peripheral stories that intertwine with his life. There are themes of love, family, danger, gambling and freedom. To westerners like myself, Ankhon Dekhi provides an insight into the real India – stripped down. The pervading theme throughout the film is truth: Bauji will only believe the truth he experiences himself, even causing him to track down a tiger to see if it really roars, albeit with some awkward consequences for Bauji himself. The truth is again subtly explored in a wedding scene where, in the midst of the colour and beauty, the imperfections are highlighted and not hidden. This honest reflection is refreshing in the film. The gentle humour brings a certain charm to the film, the flow of which is mirrored by the delicate and elegant hand gestures that accompany Indian conversation.
Stunning cinematography, by Rafey Mehmood, makes this film entrancing. Lighting, colour and framing is crucial in expressing mood. As Bauji finds liberation, his clothing becomes lighter and the shots are wide and colourful, whereas, at moments of family strife, the framing is closely cropped and the lighting is dark, underlining the sadness felt by the family members.
A conscious decision has been made to only subtitle the significant parts of dialogue. Occasionally I found this to be alienating, although, the quality of the acting helped me to understand what was being said.
The only part of the film I thought was slightly disappointing, was the use of a green screen which distracted my attention from the script’s clever ending. That being said, the film was simplistic but striking and captivating and definitely worth watching.