Road to Sangam

A small low budget movie that almost no one has heard of – is one of the most nuanced, heart-warming tales I have seen. It is a story with loads of heart, which all of us need to see – if for nothing else, to remember who we are as a country. It is a commentary of our times, yet very gently, it questions our conscience about some of our society’s beliefs. Story wise, it is like a childrens parable, where everything ends well – the cynical among us might scoff at it. But Road to Sangam’s achievement lies in its ability to make us look at each other, in a Gandhian way – something that we have long forgotten to do, despite Raj Kumar Hirani’s best efforts.

In Allahabad, Hashmatullah is a sincere, god-fearing motor mechanic, well liked in the community - and is also the general secretary of his neighbourhood mosque committee. He is entrusted with repairs to an old Ford V8 engine, ignorant of its historical significance that it once carried the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi for immersion at the Sangam. He promises he would repair the engine and he would do it as soon as possible. But when some of his innocent neighbours are arrested by the police after some bomb blasts on suspicion of harbouring terrorists, the committee sends out a ‘farman’ to down shutters in the locality as a protest.

At this point, Hashmatullah comes to know the significance of the engine – and is stuck in a dilemma. One on hand, he wants to finish his work - but to open his shop, he would have to go against the mosque ‘farman’ and his ‘quam’.

While on the face of it, it’s a story of a common man stuck in a larger-than-life situation, Road to Sargam morphs into a story of how we need to find a common ground between our two communities – without stepping on each other toes. And the reason why Road to Sangam is such a fantastic movie is that it doesn’t do or say anything explicitly – everything is gently suggested or implied. No flag waving jingoism, nor any flower-giving gandhigiri. Its so nuanced, it would take you a while before you figure out that it could even pass off as a patriotic movie!

The star of the show is Paresh Rawal (who in the same week gave a langoor-looking performance in Rann). Its here that he shows us what wonderful performances he is capable of – because we are in a serious danger of forgetting it after his Priyadarshan movies. In Road to Sargam, he plays Hashmatullah with conviction – showing us the gradual move from doubt and confusion to resolve. Accompanying him in performance honours is Pawan Malhotra. Playing the jingoist maulvi, his high pitched nasal voice make him almost unrecognizable and very believable. Om Puri doesn’t have much dialogues –and does competently.

It would give you an idea of how good or bad the movie is when you consider that Tushhar Gandhi (Mahatma’s grandson) plays himself in the movie – for a considerable part (without dialogues though). Road to Sangam is a non-judgemental look into the collective paranoia of the muslim society in India – and how sometimes it just requires a few voices of reason and some patience. The movie does have its fallacies – some of its scenes should have been written more tightly and the solution director Amit Rai provides is bordering on naïve. But these pitfalls do not distract from the appeal of the movie. Road to Sangam touches your heart with its sincerity and feeling. I repeat, it is something you shouldn’t miss.

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Shalu said...

Straight from the heart review there! This one is on my list of must-watch movies.


Suneet said...

I totally agree Pradosh, Its a masterpiece by Paresh Rawal