Film: 'Apna Aasman'; Cast: Irrfan Khan, Shobana, Dhruv Piyush Panjuani; Writer-Director: Kaushik Roy; Ratings: ***
The problem with a film about a couple grappling with the grim reality of an autistic offspring is that it gets past the checkpost of cynicism on the table itself.
And yet I'm surprised to see a lot of critical disapproval of debutant director Kaushik Roy's gentle elegiac look at a dysfunctional family from behind closed doors.
To be simple is very difficult in a film about domestic drama. The maker is constantly tempted to bring in images removed from reality to counter-balance the portrait of mundane everyday life.
Roy keeps the narrative on a constant note of equanimity, avoiding overt sentimentality so that when moving moments ensue, you're well, moved! Watch the withdrawn father bond with his forlorn son in the Holi sequence. It melts your heart.
A large part of the screen space is occupied by a 15-year-old boy's confused relationship with his estranged parents. It is quite obvious that the couple stopped seeing eye-to-eye because of their child. And the husband blames himself for Buddhi's predicament.
Irrfan Khan and Shobana take their roles far beyond the obvious. Here are two performances that go beyond the precincts of the script.
Irrfan's part is complex. He's an escapist and a bit of a jerk, avoiding the domestic domain for lunches and drinking sessions with colleagues who are constantly embarrassed by his boisterous self-regard.
Irrfan never hesitates to enter the dark territories of human nature. He plays the escapist with rare understanding and compassion.
And to see the lovely Shobana finally doing a Hindi film is a pleasure. Shobana is the last of our danseuse-actresses. Is it a coincidence she's named after her illustrious aunt Padmini">Padmini in 'Apna Aasman'?
And is it mere chance that this film moves you without trying to do so?
Kaushik makes no calculated moves for tears. The outflow of domestic emotions is so straight and direct, you are swept into the very private anguish of a couple who craves to see their son being as normal as the neighbour's child.
Of course, there are glitches. The boy who plays Buddhi tends to lose track of his character's graph. But between them, Irrfan and Shobana cultivate a climate of complete conviction for this uneven but heart-warming study of anguish in places where it can't be seen.
Kaushik makes the intangible visible. 'Apna Aasman' isn't the greatest film ever made. But it's certainly sincere, brave and heart-warming.