Vivek Agnihotri’s thrilling political document needed to have a more real approach
Why would anybody be interested in knowing about Shastri’s death now? Well, for the same set of reasons why Bose’s death is always in news? You should be asking if the film is actually contemporary. Link it to the political times it is releasing in, and you’ll probably know the relevance. The Tashkent Files is an investigative visual thriller that offers stellar cast with substantial individual screen time, something that makes the film worth all your money. To add, it brings along a series of flaws too, taking you away from the earnestness.
The film revolves around the mysterious death of India’s 2nd PM Lal Bahadur Shastri and unveiling the real truth. After a young political journalist Ragini Phule (Shweta Basu Prasad) gets classified documents from an unknown and unidentified source, the mysterious death becomes the talk of the town. To investigate, a committee is formed with Phule in it also involving a historian, a former R&AW chief, a former CJI among other experts.
Written by Agnihotri himself, the film reminding you of the set up of 12 Angry Men/ Ek Ruka Hua Faisla boasts of a gripping investigation involving an array of twists and turns blended seamlessly into the plot. The initial narrative structure is immensely interesting, where the reason why Shastri’s death will evoke interest in 2019 is satisfactorily justified. The script on paper is fantastic. Where you find cracks is the screenplay.
The dramatic en actions of situations, over involvement of characters that seems uncalled for, and unnecessary heroism takes you away from the real information. There are scenes where committee is deciding onto a portion of evidence, and while you are looking for sense and logic, you are burdened with cheesy and superfluous arguments. The film also in the second half seems to stretch. But only till the moment of climax sequence.
Of course, the flashbacks, original clippings and reconstructions, and twists are impact full. For a moment if you believe blindly what is shown in the film to be true, you’ll be blown by the fact that the incidents happened for real with a real man, that too the PM of the country.
A strong political comment, the jurors made to represent the society, and also a deep dive into facts not only make the film allegorical, but also deeply effective. It is indeed a very well researched film, credits to which also go to Anuj Dhar (a noted author) along with Agnihotri. Also, the climax will shake you up and you’ll start looking at Indian history in new light.
You only wish it had more connect. You wish it was more real. You wish it wasn’t too dramatic.
Naseeruddin Shah although has a strong role, doesn’t quite match up to the stature. He seems fake and because you know he’s capable of much more, you’re disappointed even more.
Mithun Chakraborty and Pallavi Joshi, both show that despite their fewer appearances on camera, they still have the power to rule the frame. They are both brilliant.
Pankaj Tripathi makes an impeccable mark in his portrayal. He refreshes the otherwise monotonous plot at various points. Mandira Bedi is strong and fierce. Very likable. Vinay Pathak is just okay and Rajesh Sharma, reasonably good.
Shweta Basu Prasad however shines the most. Its probably her best act so far. She’s the reason why this film will be remembered. Absolutely marvelous.
Prakash Belawadi is fantastic, grumpy as always. He nails his act.
Its because of such incredible actors that at times you even tend to ignore the minuses of the plot. Reason why actors make up a film.
Music by Rohit Sharma is jarring and too loud. The plot needed numbers that could take the story forward. Score by Satya Mannik Afsar is engrossing in major portions. It sets the tone of the film at many points and keeps you connected.
Cinematography by Uday Singh Mohite is stylised, especially in the indoor sequences. However you miss the touch of realism at times. Production design is great, evident from the manner how frames are defined. Visually, its a justified piece.
Editing by Satyajit Gazmer is riveting. With ample plot turns, the editor here ensures you are glued. But majorly, the narrative doesn’t quite keep you with the flow.
Whether or not will it change how we look at politics today or of the past, is still not clear. What the film does is entertain you decently well. Hype hasn’t been much around this. Promotions haven’t been many. While this could have been one where word of mouth worked, the inherent flaws won’t let the film reach out wider. Climax is something this film must be definitely watched for.