After taking us for a joyful ride of Sajjanpur, Shyam Babu’s next destination is the small town Chikatpally somewhere in Hyderabad, with a focus on the in-built corruption in the Indian democratic systems and the deep routed social discrimination. Is this journey pleasant enough? Well, almost…
Armaan Ali (Boman Irani), a car driver in Mumbai, takes a month leave to visit his hometown to find a bridegroom for his only daughter Muskaan (Minissha Lamba), who is looked after Armaan’s twin brother Rehman (Boman) and his wife Salma (Ila Arun). The couple is habitual petty thieves and is wanted by local policemen (Rajit Kapoor, Yashpal Sharma and Ravi Jhankal). So Abba Armaan has to take care of them, and also get her daughter married suitably. Seeing the water crisis in his area, he decides to get one well dug on his land to ease the farming and daily needs.
He is informed about the government scheme of providing free monetary support to those below the BPL. Thus starts his painful journey through the various government servants, bureaucrats and politicians – all corrupt to the core. The Dassera / Diwali cuts cost him so much that he hardly has any money left out of the first installment to initiate the digging. Then he has to pay more cuts to the same officials to get forged documents and photographs certifying completion of first phase. This continues till all money is received and exhausted without the actual work getting initiated. His vacations have exhausted and his job is also at stake. Muskaan is romantically involved with a local garage boy Arif (Sameer Dattani), whereas Armaan is thinking to get her married to an Arab Sheikh (in line with Muskaan’s close friend who got married to a Sheikh) so that she spends rest of her life in glory. How Arif and Muskaan stand beside Armaan, use the power of RTI and manage to make a mockery of the systems to eventually get justice is what follows…
Creating the base on a couple of short stories, Shyam Benegal has tried to embed corruption and social evils, as much as he can, and he also shows means to tackle the same. Be it on-paper-successful government schemes for the poor, or the female Sarpanch remote controlled by her husband (Salim Ghouse), or the bizarre political parties debating on theft of all the wells dug in the area, or the breaking news crazy media, or the young daughters sell-off to old but filthy rich Sheikhs – every aspect of the misery has been portrayed. He gets an able writing support from Ashok Mishra, who also penned the dialogues, and Dayal Nihalani who assisted him in direction. Costumes by Pia Benegal and camerawork by Rajen Kothari are good.
What could have been handled better is the length of the movie and editing of a few repetitive / unwanted sequences. The narration seems to be like a CST-Panvel slow local that runs at a monotonous medium speed, except at the Vashi Bridge, where it runs like Rajdhani. The sequences involving Ila Arun, Ravi Kissen and Sonali Kulkarni, Ravi Kissen and Boman Irani, Rajit Kapoor and his harassing wife Deepika Deshpande, and the climax stage collapse scene (straight out of Uma Bharti’s incident) – are a few equivalent of that bridge.
Performances: Boman Irani does full justice to his double roles. The way he hides his illiteracy from the people, his expressions at the photo studio, his initial unwillingness towards Arif and bending himself towards corruption only to get the work done quickly so that he can go back to his job, all done superbly – not to forget the cunning brother who misses no opportunity to milk money from his brother. Minissha Lamba looks fresh, energetic and chirpy throughout, perfectly portraying a college girl from a conservative background. Sameer Dattani is alright. Rajit Kapoor, Rajendra Gupta, Sonali Kulkarni and Salim Ghouse are good in their brief roles. Yashpal Sharma, Ravi Jhankal and Lalit Mohan Tiwari - the three most solid characters of “Welcome to Sajjanpur” are repeated here, but unfortunately their roles are inconsequential. Ila Arun and Ravi Kissen have grabbed two of the most interesting characters of the script. Be it the thief Salma, who creates a ruckus in the lock-up and later singing and dancing at Muskaan’s marriage, or the lusty engineer Mr. Jha, who is often found “jogging” at home when not minting money at office, both are simply adorable.
Music: Shantanu Moitra comes up again with a decent score with tracks “Meri Banno Hoshiyar” and “Hum To Apni Bawdi Lenge” standing out, with simple and meaningful lyrics by Ashok Mishra, Swanand Kirkire and Ila Arun herself.