Shastry Vs Shastry is heartwarming, real and relevant

Kabir Pahwa, Mimi Chakraborty and Shiv Panditt in Shastry Vs. Shastry. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

This was my last online visit for a 2023 released film that did not run at all theatrically. And gratifyingly, among the most rewarding!

For one, as a film, Shastry Vs Shastry is a heartwarming, real and relevant story (remade from the 2017 Bengali film Posto by the same director duo) that explores the concept of how much time and quality attention working parents can give their children. So what is the emotional alternative? Grandparents?

As we see almost throughout the film, seven year-old Momoji (pet name for Yaman, as played by Kabir Pahwa) is a well-adjusted, perky and smart young boy who is brilliant at both academics and music. His grandfather, Manohar Shastry (Paresh Rawal), who looks after him along with wife, Urmila (Neena Kulkarni) is after all, his music teacher too.

Yaman has been living with them in the hill station of Panchgani since his severe illness as an infant, when Urmila had rushed to Mumbai where Yaman’s parents, Malhar (Shiv Panditt) and Mallika (Mimi Chakraborty) reside for their jobs, and then brought him to Panchgani. Malhar has been in and out of diverse jobs and is now offered a lucrative assignment in US. Naturally for the parents, they want to take Yaman (named after a popular raag in Indian classical music) with them.

But having seen their casual attitude with Yaman over the years, with only video chats, occasional visits and gifts for the sensitive and sensible boy, Manohar, basically a strong-willed old man, resists for Yaman’s sake, as he obviously feels that the young boy’s bright future will be compromised in a strange country and he will be emotionally alone when both father and mother are off to work.

When an angry Malhar (Manohar is already prejudiced against his son, whom he considers useless and someone living off his wife’s income while he changes jobs frequently) declares that he will definitely take Yaman with him, Manohar does the unthinkable. With the help of his friend, Jitesh (Manoj Joshi), a lawyer, he files a case in court for legal custodianship of Yaman. Malhar is compelled to have the sharp legal shark, Shalini Patwardhan (Amruta Subhash) represent him against his father as the defense lawyer.

What happens next? What about the views of Yaman? Or of his mother and also grandmother? How do the opposing legal parties face each at home?

Shastry Vs Shastry talks about a very real and relevant problem in a non-judgmental, clinical yet sensitive way. Yes, I had a bit of a problem with the way the judge (K.K. Raina), after listening to views from both sides, takes the child to his chambers for a heart-to-heart talk, promises that he will do what the child says, and yet goes back on his word out of practical necessities. The climax (which comes later) could have also been executed in a better manner, though the solution is more realistic than ideal. Or is there an ideal way out at all?

Secondly, apart from the relatable story, we have a rare (for 2023) film score in which the songs (including a Rabindranath Tagore composition) is created for the film and not for rank commerce. All the songs are tuneful and melodious, but Khushi ke bahane, sung rather throatily by Sonu Nigam is the best of the lot, lyrically (Manoj Yadav) and musically (Anupam Roy). It is refreshing indeed to have what I may call one of the less-than-handful of truly situational scores of last year, and that too with multiple composers!

Ably directed by the duo of Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy, I would give high marks to the heart attack sequence, the encounter between Yaman and the judge and the sequence on the hills that generates the confrontation between Manohar and Malhar, in particular.

The script is marked by many really sensitive lines by Anu Singh Choudhary (this talented lady co-wrote Scoop, Aarya 3 and Sajini Shinde Ka Viral Video recently), and add-on strength comes also from its phenomenal performers. Leading the way is young Kabir Pahwa as Yaman: the young boy joins the rank of the best child actors in the last decade as he glides from casual to dramatic scenes with an astounding ease that could be an acting lesson for adult actors! In one word, he is incredible!

Paresh Rawal as Manohar is stern, gentle, resolute and helpless as the character demands and scores high. Neena Kulkarni makes a mark as the silently and emotionally-sandwiched mother and grandmother. Shiv Panditt has to measure up to these three skilled performers and most of the time, he succeeds in holding his own. Mimi Chakraborty is excellent as Mallika—getting the least nuanced role of the ‘family’, she still succeeds in scoring as a woman torn between husband, in-laws, child, values and reality. Manoj Joshi and K.K. Raina are alright, but Amruta Subhash, while being true to her character’s needs, sometimes goes overboard, unlike Yami Gautam Dhar in a somewhat similar role in OMG2.     

In these days when genuine emotions (even if shown a tad in overdrive for audience appeal) are at a premium in Hindi cinema, this one dives deep into our psyches. Replace the protagonists with top stars and it could have been a hit. But then its real-life flavor would have been seriously compromised.

So never mind the lack of scale and star-appeal: Watch this sweet confection for what it is: a worthy addition to Cinema 2023. 

Netflix presents Viacom 18 Motion Pictures’ Shastry Viruddh Shastry  Produced by: Ajit Andhare, Alok Tripathi     & Kevin Vaz Directed by: Shiboprosad Mukherjee   & Nandita Roy  Written by: Nandita Roy, Shiboprosad Mukherjee & Anu Singh Choudhary   Music: Rabindranath Tagore, Anindya Chatterjee, Anupam Roy & Arindam Starring: Paresh Rawal, Neena Kulkarni, Shiv Panditt, Mimi Chakraborty, Addinath Kothare, Manoj Joshi, Amruta Subhash, Tiku Talsania, K.K. Raina, Sayee Mone Patil, Archana Deshmukh, Aakansha Singhal, Semal Bhatt & others







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