Abhijit Deonath’s contemporary take on relationship and friendship could have been a lot more
Can a boy and a girl be friends? The question has long been asked, especially in Bollywood. Now, can a married man and a married woman be just friends? And should it be anybody else’s business if they are? Think of it. It is not something that calls for attention. But now that a film is made on this, you actually wonder its not as simple as it sounds, making Salt Bridge a great recipe for those who don’t mind being shown the mirror, as a society. Where the film falls back is inefficient direction, making you sulk.
Basant (Rajeev Khandelwal) is the newest migrant among the Indians residing in Salt Bridge, Australia along with his wife Lipi (Usha Jadhav) and a son. Soon he befriends his driving instructor Madhurima Datta (Chelsie Preston Crayford), an Australian married to an Indian who also lives in the same neighborhood. Things turn ugly when their friendship becomes the talk of the town (read: community).
Written by Deonath himself, the story is pretty simple and straightforward. But it definitely is worth noticing and paying attention to. The beauty of the basic premise is that it talks about society as a whole, and its boundaries- making it deeper as a context.
Told through a series of flashbacks haunting Basant and a plenty of symbolic cut-aways (man rowing a boat, people passing through colorful gardens, dried up trees, shrubs, railway tracks etc), the film is a symbolic entity. With a portrayal on cross cultural contexts assembled together, the film makes a point at a larger level
Going by the inherent structure, its a slow film making you believe in its snail pace. It asks you to feel the situations, relate with the characters at not only an external level but more so at a psychological degree. This is exactly where the film makes its purpose justified.
Now this remains just one part of the drama. The other part disappoints terribly. The direction is too contrived and the scenes fail to evoke the emotions. It is here that you miss the brilliance of people like Raju Hirani, Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Kashyap or Aanand L Rai for the genius in emotions they create. You feel the director wants to say something, but you are not moved. The pace is never a problem, but when Deonath isn’t able to translate that into plus, you know things have gone wrong.
Rajeev Khandelwal gives a brilliant act in a role that is restrained. The character has boundaries and its the complex mental frame that Khandelwal as an actor beautifully puts forth. He makes you feel the mental pain and agony of the character and you see a great actor in him. Moreover its because of him that you sail through.
Usha Jadhav is a good but could have been much better. She seems fake in a lot of sequences where she is acting forcibly and not reacting.
Chelsie Preston Crayford on the other hand is very good, and you don’t miss the presence of any Indian actor in her place. She delivers well what is expected of her.
Mayur Kamble is average and so is supporting cast.
Deonath’s music is nowhere close to being even good. The songs- plenty of them- all seem like patchwork. The lyrics are straight out of a fantasy of a 3rd grader and the tunes made by a wedding orchestra band. In a film of such genre and mood, you miss the quality of music and songs that could have done wonders. Background score is soothing and melodious. It evokes right sense in you making you connect with the plot well.
Miguel Gallagher’s camera is seamless. Capturing the locations well syncing them with the plot works wonders for the film. They suck you well into the drama taking you inside the minds of characters.
Editing by Rabindrajan Maitra and Ben Wade is mesmerizing in a way that the flow is well maintained. One thing effortlessly slips into another and before you realize you reach the final act. Parallel cuts, non-linear narrative are only few things that give the drama the needed push.
Production design is beautiful. Making you visually engaged, it gets you in the zone and creates an aura that stays with you all through.
Salt Bridge is for the niche in you. If mature relationships are your things with a hint of sour taste, this one will please you. Its a peaceful yet disturbing cinematic experience- a story that needed to be told. Watch it in a theater or a setting that gives complete isolation. For the love of cinema, this is prerequisite. In the age of promotions more important than the film itself, wish it was promoted a bit more. One thing that needed to be improved- the amateur direction.