Sunday, December 6, 2009


Movie Review : Dharm
Language : Hindi
Released : 2007
Director : Bhavna Talwar
Starring : Pankaj Kapur, Supriya Pathak Kapur
My Rating : 9 out of 10

The Sanskrit word Dharm is often used in contexts where it can be interpreted as "religion" or "duty" or both. The point being, the right religion is duty and vice versa. The movie "Dharm : Come, Question Your Faith" stays true to this theme and forces the viewer to accept the broader meaning of "Dharm".

Pandit Chaturvedi (Pankaj Kapur) is a famous, scholarly priest. He practices what he preaches, hence even his adversaries respect him. He is not afraid to say the truth, has no political ambition and simply wants to live an austere life according to his interpretation of "Dharm". He has a loving wife and an obedient daughter. Together they are happy in their simple life.

One day a woman hands her baby to Pandit Chaturvedi's daughter and vanishes. She brings the baby to their home and assures her father that the baby is of Brahmin cast. When the police cannot find the mother, Panditjee wants the baby sent to a proper orphanage. But his wife and daughter are already attached to the infant and somehow convince him to keep the baby. As days and months pass by, he himself gets attached to the child. A father-son bond develops between the kid and the priest. And we see that the stern priest has a soft heart inside him. Then the real mother comes back to claim her child.

Not only is this a blow to the family, but a much harsher shock to the Pandit, as the boy's real mother is anything but Brahmin - she is a Muslim. The weeping boy - named Kartikeya by Panditjee himself - is sent off with his real mother. Now Panditjee has to fight to keep his social status. His real fight, though, is with himself. His belief system is at severe odds with his fatherly affection and tests every single drop of his resolve. But when the Hindu-Muslim riots break out, he realizes the true meaning of Dharm.

This is a simple and very powerful theme. Director Bhavna Talwar handles it without melodramatic cliches and remains very honest with the sensitive nature of the subject. She does not use the priest to preach wordy messages to the audience. Beautifully shot, everything in the movie feels real - the setting, the people, and the dialogues.

Of course, as important as the director is the lead actor. Pankaj Kapur gives a towering and flawless performance. The movie is centered on the character of Pandit Chaturvedi and his internal struggles, and Pankaj Kapur lives the part. Even his long silent moments on the screen convey his every single feeling clearly to the viewer.

I absolutely recommend this film. It's a slow paced feature without any entertainment. But it's immensely satisfying.

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