Monday, March 4, 2024

ZEE5 film ‘Lantrani’ is salvaged by surprise casting choices

Lantrani brings together the talents of Gurvinder Singh, Kaushik Ganguly and Bhaskar Hazarika and hopes that this union of prestige filmmakers will automatically produce magic.

The triptych of stories exploring what is and what could be is out on ZEE5. The anthology film’s title roughly translates into “tall tales”, with the invisible subhead “Full marks for courage”. For courageous are the stories suggesting that all isn’t well in the glorious Indian republic.

The most engrossing episode, Gurvinder Singh’s Dharna Mana Hai, makes clever use of Malayalam actor Nimisha Sajayan. She stars as Gomti, a Dalit sarpanch who has taken a public vow of silence to protest against the blocking of development funds for her village. Gomti is accompanied in her revolt by her husband Debu (Jitendra Kumar).

Dharna Mana Hai is the latest milestone in Gurvinder Singh’s recent journey from elliptical to narrative filmmaking. What could have worked nicely as a full-length feature is crammed into a short format.

Yet, the absurdity is on point. The most memorable performance is by Bhojpuri actor Sanjay Mahanand, who is delightful as the obsequious assistant to an indifferent bureaucrat.

Nimisha Sajayan and Jitendra Kumar in Lantrani (2024). Courtesy Neeljai Films/Naam Meinkya Rakha/ZEE5.

Kaushik Ganguly’s Hud Hud Dabbang boldly reimagines the comic genius Johnny Lever as a somewhat serious man. Lever revels in a role in which he is rarely, if ever, cast.

He plays Deelip, a police constable assigned to take an unnamed prisoner (Jisshu Sengupta) for his court hearing. Deelip’s gun and Bullit motorcycle supply the humour until it is time to understand what the prisoner has been accused of. Assembled in a jumpy manner, the film’s highlight is Lever’s deep humanity.

It’s third time unlucky for Bhaskar Hazarika’s Sanitized Samachar. The pandemic era-set story, led by Boloram Das, barely goes beyond its catchy title.

A television network station that appears to be functioning out of a house comes up with what is hoped to be a revenue-earning solution to beat the health crisis. Perhaps the amateurishness is the point, and perhaps we haven’t understood whatever allegory/satire/message is being conveyed.

Lantrani (2024).

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