June issue 2009
Victims of Circumstance
Barah Aana is the story of three disillusioned and frustrated men who desire a higher standard of living. One of these men happens to come across a lucrative money-making operation and, suddenly, their black-and-white world isn’t so defined anymore. With an end (a lot of cash) that justifies the means, soon the three become partners in crime, but as the money starts coming in, each of them gets bolder in taking risks. It is one of these risks that puts the trio in danger.
Naseeruddin Shah plays Shukla, a chauffeur working for a socialite couple. The wife, played by Javati Bhatia, is nearly always drunk and suspicious of Shukla’s intentions and constantly complains about missing cash and jewellery to her husband. Shah is berated for either driving too fast or too slow and is continuously reminded of his social status. A thankless job, indeed!
Stuck in a similar situation but a different job is Yadav (Vijay Raaz), who is a watchman at an apartment complex. He makes endless trips to the grocery store for the residents, and sometimes even works double shifts. But when Yadav needs extra cash to take his sick child to the doctor, no one comes to the rescue; instead, they pat him on the back and tell him that his child will soon recover. The third character, Aman (Arjun Mathur of Luck by Chance fame), is a waiter at a coffee shop who falls in love with an Italian customer, Kate (Violante Placido), and he tries to impress her with his knowledge of her country. But he finds that she doesn’t quite warm up to his advances.
Directed by Raja Menon, who previously directed Bas Yun Hi, Barah Aana presents the perspective of Mumbai’s lower-income group, who are an integral part of the metropolis, yet are not given their due. The movie was shot in the “slums of Dharavi, where abject poverty lurks behind the walls of small huts and one-room houses that are brightly painted in hues of red, blue and orange. Although it deals with a morbid topic, the film is peppered with humour and makes its point through satire rather than blood and gore.
All three leading men in the film must be commended for their strong performances. Although Naseeruddin Shah has barely five lines throughout the movie, it is his facial expressions and his onscreen personality that shine through. Both Mathur and Raaz deliver equally convincing performances. Barah Aana shouldn’t be relegated to the back shelves of your video collection as just another Bollywood flick, but instead viewed in order to understand, if not justify, what drives simple, honest, hard-working people to commit the crimes they sometimes do.