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A truly welcoming delight

2008 could well be the year for off-beat films that showcase life and times of the actual world. ‘Welcome to Sajjanpur’ (WTS) is one such fantastic movie. Brilliantly scripted and directed by Shyam Benegal, WTS tells several stories of a typical village life – brilliantly drawing inferences from real-life events that have enfolded over the recent years in hinterland India – as seen through the eyes of a letter-writer. The central character Mahadev (Shreyas Talpade; Iqbal, Dor, Om Shanti Om) is an educated young man who despite being a B.A. could not get a job in urban India. So he comes back to his village and after a couple of happy-go-lucky incidents of writing letters on behalf of fellow villagers and favourable results arising out it, makes it his full-time profession. Much to the delight to the otherwise educationally-challenged village folk that needed a medium to communicate to the outside world, he becomes a professional letter-writer.

 Benegal has cleverly woven real-life stories and incidents of rural India in this satire and used them to devastating effect. Corrupt elections, booth capturing (or manipulation), uneducated and opportunistic politicians making hay while the sun shines, eunuchs standing for elections while righteously and honestly bringing forth their plight, superstitions, honour killings, Nano-Singur controversy and even the modern-day village belle riding a Honda Activa – or was that TVS Scooty, I do not know – a-la Priyanka Chopra, all thrown with an added dash of humor makes WTS an outright winner. And the humor is genuine, not at all slapstick like most of our mainstream Bollywood crap.

 Performances across the board are superb; it’s difficult to highlight one or two names. But Talpade is a brilliant actor and we so wish other directors could tap his potential rather than craving unnecessary for six-packs and mindless hamming. He is not a star, but a fine actor. And that is a major accomplishment in my books. Good to see Ila Arun back on screen in a meaty role. Bollywood is full of such character actors that our egoistic producers and directors have refused to give a justifiable and respectable break. Welcome to Sajjanpur is a worthwhile watch and one of the best films in 2008. 

Rating: * * * * *  

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