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Morning Raga Review

Review by IndiaGlitz [ Friday, October 29, 2004 • Hindi ]
Morning Raga Review
Shabana Azmi, Prakash Rao, Perizaad Zorabian, Nasser, Lilette Dubey
Mahesh Dattani
Amit Hering and Mani Sharma

Whether it's "Abhimaan", "Sur" or "Saaz", Hindi movies about music and musicians have employed ego as the primary focus of interest.

In Mahesh Dattani's second feature film after "Mango Souffle", every character moves with a baggage of guilt but never projects it into the music that finally emerges from his or her soul.

"Morning Raga" is as fresh in subject and enticing in treatment as the title suggests.

Sure, at first the English language with generous smatterings of Telugu tends to be at loggerheads with the music that runs, no, waltzes through this moving tale of the power of music to heal and unify splintered souls.

But then as we get into the dreamy swing of things, the Andhra Pradesh countryside, so caressingly captured by Rajiv Menon's camera, we realize that the clash of languages represents the bigger clash of cultures, which in turn magically telescopes into a debate between destiny and ambition, holding on and letting go.

"Morning Raga" tells the very dramatic story of a Carnatic singer, Swarnalata (Shabana Azmi), who loses her little son and her close friend, who's also her violinist-accompanist, in a bus accident.

Twenty years after the calamity, the dead woman's son Abhinay (Prakash Rao) returns to the village to open up hardly healed wounds.

The light touch that Dattani lends to the inherently dramatic plot is a marvel of creative restraint. The narrative is carpeted with pastel shades of emotions and a surprisingly large amount of humor ladled out gently, like the subtle strains of the tanpura wafting softly into a room quivering with hushed voices.

"Morning Raga" is a raga recital played out at a tenor that's as gentle as the breeze blowing through the Andhra Pradesh village where Swarnalata, stoic in her grief-stricken remembrance of the past, comes face to face with her dead friend's adamant son.

"My mother did a lot for you. She's gone. But I'm here...or maybe that doesn't mean anything to you," Abhinay mocks the proudly grieving singer, prodding awake her most precious and indelible memories, provoking her into jazz-raga sessions with her friend's adamant son.

In this way she finds a son she lost, while the young man rediscovers a mother whose memory he embraced all his life.

The passing on of a legacy is a critical leitmotif in this luminous tale of loss and redemption. In one way or another, every character finds his or her lost self in ways that are forever unpredictable and surprising.

Yes, some of the metaphorical strokes in the plot are almost gimmicky.

The fact that the boutique owner's (Lilette Dubey) daughter Pinky (Perizaad Zorabian) is stricken with guilt because the fateful bus accident 20 years ago had been caused by her drunken father is a thematic device that tries a trifle too hard to dilate the circle of destiny into a neat cyclic package. But then not everything in art need be perfect to be authentic.

Miraculously, the fragile plot holds together in a tender but firm clasp of traditional values and their uprooting in modern times.

Dattani pokes good-natured fun at the dudes and dolls in the metro, so distanced from their roots they wouldn't recognize them with binoculars. If Abhinay, Pinky and their rock 'n' roll band cross that symbolical bridge dividing the city from the village then the stoic Swarnalata too needs to get out of the past, shrug the baggage of guilt and cultural confinement and sing at a concert in the city.

The swap, so to speak, occurs with a delectable fluency so far removed from the strenuous sexual statement of Dattan

Rating: 0 / 5.0

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