This is one of the most engaging satire's seen in recent times. Janki Vishwanathan's sequestered narrative manages to capture the right mood and moments to make this mocking bird fly -even though it belongs to a realm that hasn't seen much creative success in Bollywood. A metaphor on the communal nature of life in middle India, the film starts off as a social satire and ends up harping on the political nature of institutions meant to be otherwise. The so-called protectors of our democracy are shown-up as men with feet of clay, and it's all done with kid gloves on. So there's little room for any offence or disrespect.
Residing in a nondescript village somewhere in middle India, The Quereshi family struggles with financial woes until they decide to sell their goat, Shah Rukh, a beloved of their little son(Shameen Khan). The young boy seeks the help of a Mumbai returned barber (Anshuman Jha)who is sneakily engaged in wooing the boy's older sister. The barber helps out by painting the word 'Allah' in Urdu, on the side of the goat. And immediately the Quereshi's experience a turnaround of fortunes, to the extent that people begin borrowing money from them and they even have a Sheikh from Arabia offering an obscene amount for purchase of the precious goat. Not to be left behind, a steady line of claimants suddenly crop up from out of the wood-work, all claiming some connection to Shah Rukh and therefore the potential wealth soon to be claimed. And a Hindu-Muslim face-off is imminent considering the political overtones that emerge from diverse claimants from across the communal divide.
A series of bewildering turns later, the Quereshi family escape the muddle of their utopian dream only to find themselves corralled by cops who appear to have their own agenda and political and ideological affiliations.
The opening sequence is of the Goat, Shah Rukh, being followed by a group of marching policemen- a ridiculous sight that makes sense only towards the end of the inveigling narration. And in between flows the whimsical tale of the luckless family who suddenly see riches only to be thwarted by a system that does not recognise the rights of the poor and the disadvantaged.
Janki Vishwanathan's scripted narrative takes the slow route to engagement, steadily developing a sublime allegory for neediness and ignorance. Shah Rukh's opportune divinity is probably a telling indictment on the star system and the idolatry overtures made by their fans. The writing is tongue-in-cheek, dialogues and treatment veer towards minimalistic and the performances mark-up the engagement with its sharp nuances. The focus is on the quirks of the characters in play here. The issues raised here, including vulnerability to religious hypocracy, bigotry, love and materialism, politics and religion, all find sustenance in the deft maneuvering of the characters within the typographical milieu. The music by Agni lends that extra polish and whimsy to the experiences.
The cinematography by Abhinandan Ramanujam, allows for total believability in the deliberately incredulous exposition and development. The sudden sharp turns in plotting does appear challenging but the smartly engineered immediate immersive engagement facilitated by the note-perfect ensemble cast rarely allows for any doubt to take root. Strong on nuances and low on rhetoric, this quasi socio-political satire makes for sublime viewing!