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Circa 1940 in Trinidad, still a British Colony, lives Ganesh Ramseyor, of East Indian origin, along with his wife, Leela. He longs to reach out to people, especially to Hindus, in order to promote the Hindu Faith, and be known as a writer. He does get considerable success, so much so that he becomes famous as a miracle worker, having cured a man of sharing intimacy with his bicycle; prevented a man from believing that he can fly; and convincing a young woman to end her fast. His fame spreads all over the island and thousands throng to seek his blessings, which he does dole out quite benevolently, without charging any fees from the poor and the needy. He then decides to spread his wings by challenging the local politician Pandit Narayan Chandrashekhar alias Cyrus T., and takes over The Hindu Organization, thence opening his way to a seat in the prestigious Member of the Legislative Assembly. Now literally the sky is the limit for Ganesh, and he knows that he can achieve any position - ... Written by
OK film but the story is flat, the wit sporadic, the performances mixed and, although it looks good, it is hard to overlook how dull and unsatisfying it is for the most part
In 1940's Trinidad, Ganesh leaves his teaching job in the city to return to his father's village to try and become a writer. He struggles at first and ignores attempts by his late father's friend Ramlogan to get him to become a masseur like his father. When he marries Ramlogan's daughter Leela, he sets to write his books proper but the gamble is slow to pay off. At this point Ganesh decides to play up his slight reputation as a masseur a reputation that has been made more appealing locally by his showmanship giving him a 'mystic' air. As he grows in stature as a masseur, so his book sales increase and he finds himself opened into the potential of politics, inspiration and corruption.
Attracted by this being an Ismail Merchant film, I wasn't sure what it was about or what it was going to be like. The plot interested me from the start as I tried to understand the flashback structure; it went further to show me a community that I didn't even know existed. However these were not enough and the film just didn't seem to go anywhere; sure it told a story, but it didn't seem to take much of the audience with it and it produced a story that goes very slow and, although it has stuff happening, it was surprisingly unengaging and actually rather dull. The characters are semi-interesting and the plot is the same, but the delivery drags it all down. At points it is rather amusing but again the delivery reduces the impact this has and it makes it sporadic rather than infusing the wit with the rest of the film. The film tries to take the story of Ganesh from humble beginnings to a place where he has grown beyond what he first wanted but it doesn't work as a story in itself nor as an allegory for the growth of Trinidad or the community. It is not terrible but many viewers will feel that it doesn't really go anywhere and, even worse, it goes there very slowly and with limited entertainment value.
The cast are mixed; by which I don't mean some are good and some bad, but I mean that they are all a bit hard to judge. Their accents is a good example; is their mix of Indian & Patois spot on for the place and period or is it as poor as I thought when I first watched it. Patois is a hard accent to pull off without sounding silly (look at Brad Pitt in Joe Black!) and I wasn't totally convinced here I accept that the mix would sound funny anyway but in this film too many people sounded like they were forcing it as indeed they were. However they also mostly do well with their characters and it is not their fault that the film lets them down. Mandvi leads the cast well but he doesn't manage to help us totally understand Ganesh and I'm not convinced that he totally understood him either. However he does change well over the film as required but this is not enough given that the film is his to dominate as the main character. Dharker is as gorgeous as ever and she is pretty good when the film allows her to be, mostly in the first hour. Puri is a great actor and given high billing here but the film doesn't hardly use him and then just forgets he is around; his delivery is great though and he is a big part of the wit that the film doesn't use well.
Bhaskar seemed a strange choice since he is best known as a comedian in the UK but he is good here and makes for lively, honest support. Mistry is wasted and seems unsure of himself and the rest of the cast are given too little to really do to be worried about listing. Merchant's directing is good and the whole film looks colourful and interesting.
Overall this is an OK film but nothing really works that well and, despite the colourful locations, communities and sets it still comes across as being rather limp and, dare I say it, dull. The story and characters have just enough going for them to become interested but not enough to really engage and satisfy as a story the ending is a fine example of this and feels like the film just decided to stop. Maybe worth seeing once as an unusual film from Merchant but really this is only average at best.
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