Taking reference from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, Rajen Kothari and Dayal Nihalani’s film is a classic example of how even with almost all elements falling right into place, a film can falter because of weak direction
Great actors on board. A tight script. Layered drama. Social commentary. Taking cues from a world renowned literary work. Rooted music. Decent camera. All this have been let down by one and only one aspect in Das Capital- Gulamon Ki Rajdhani. That is direction. A little tighter grip there and this film would emerge victorious with vibrant flying colours. For one, there are nearly zero promotions. Secondly, it comes it on a pay-per-view model, that too on a platform no widely known. All these are reasons adding to the troubles for the film.
Watch the trailer here:
Set in a remote town in Bihar, it is a story of Purushottam Ram (Yashpal Sharma), a treasury clerk who finds himself caught between his corrupt seniors and his family to provide for. In the backdrop of huge class and caste divide at the grassroot, his battle is for his and his family’s survival.
Written by Shaiwal, it is a promising premise. Bringing in notions of capitalism at the core, you may expect troubles and agony, more so the exploitation by the hands of the powerful. The socio-economic condition of a person, especially in the rural India backed by the caste divide at every step also finds its significant mention within the narrative. All of this is something that is not only tricky but very challenging to justify with the limited script. Shaiwal’s writing does justice to the issues and their prominence within the framework of a screenplay.
What is also noteworthy is that the narrative is balanced throwing conflicts at the characters (thus, also to you) at frequent intervals. There are happy breathers, and also sad undertones laid down intricately in the already violent (in the mental sort of way) main track. The idea of showing humans as mere skeletons and used for money even after they have died is the most striking feature of the drama; coming across as a symbolic treatment.
The film never falters in the writing. It is only the weak direction that is to be blamed. What appears on paper to be sad scene when someone on screen is suffering or even dying out of sheer negligence, or when a woman is raped just so casually- you should feel that horror. You should feel the immense grief. You should question the existence of humanity. Nothing of that sort happens sadly. And it is only because the scenes lack that conviction. Drama unfolds plainly on screen, never letting you get fully invested. It is not dull, but you are watching things from a distance, something that is a curse for a film of such nature.
The attempt is impressive to fuse the rural story with enough credible elements like the quirky music reminding you of the folk songs of the state, even getting you closer to your soil. But the deeply ingrained pathos in the life of your protagonist never moves you, except for one scene that comes towards the end. Late Rajen Kothari (prolific cinematographer who shot films like Ghayal, Zubeidaa, Godmother to name a few; who passed away just before the release of the film) and Dayal Nihalani could have given their scenes a believability, by means of so much more like a gripping score or meaningful shot compositions or simply using the written words to their good advantage. The scenes fall flat in your face and you start to predict what is yet to come. When the predictions also fall right, you are left disappointed.
The film is set in 1980s. One more reason why it doesn’t appeal hugely. Had the film depicted the contemporary times, it would have made you believe in it easily.
Yashpal Sharma performs to his level best, even making the drama watchable for you. His is a known and credible face, and he gives you that faith as an actor. A lot of the film rests on how he fares, and he does live upto the mark.
Pratibha Sharma is also very good. She looks perfect for her part and makes you believe in the role she is in. There is a sense of raw and rustic quality about her and she uses that to her full advantage.
Manoj Pahwa and Seema Pahwa, both make a one scene special appearance, and they act very well. Neeraj Sood is also very good as a brash and shrewd man. You hate him and find him ugly. A winning compliment for him. Jameel Khan is also fairly good, although he is underutilised. He does fine though with his character that keeps coming in the drama, adding conflicts.
K K Raina has a small role and he does complete justice to his scheme of things. Late Asif Basra, in a one scene appearance does well. Ayesha Raza has an insignificant role, which she does fine in.
Amod Bhatt’s music must be appreciated, without an iota of doubt. The songs never hinder the narrative, and also fit the plot. Bringing in the raw flavour of the small town, the songs make you feel as if you belong to the place. A very good effect has been created by the songs. The score however needed to be more powerful. There is visible absence of any score in some scenes which could have been lifted by the usage of some tunes or a peculiar instrument. Wherever it is, it is still okay.
Cinematography by Chandan Goswami is very good for some parts, while utterly bland for most of the scenes. The opening shot is brilliant. So is the last one. Here and there, there are some compositions that are symbolic and the scenes are also lit up nicely. But overall, the approach is casual and not cinematic. Ofcourse it didn’t need to be grand, but the colours and lighting could have used more effectively to convey some essence. Production design is okay, could be better.
Editing by Prashant Naik is average. While the drama isn’t dull, there are several jumps, within the same scene or during transitions. There is one segment that abruptly cuts. The flow isn’t foolproof.
It is a very good attempt. Containing so many important nuances about the society and how it functions, the film had an opportunity to shine through the word of mouth. Unfortunately, it will be lost in the books, with only a reference in film discussions about films on capitalism.