Tagore’s stories have been adapted in Hindi cinema since the black and white era as they remain relevant and do not confine to any specific time-period. However, the present generation might find tough to relate to them as our society and relationships have gone through a drastic change in the last two decades and ‘living for the other’ is not an emotion cherished by many.
Darbaan is the directorial debut of Marathi filmmaker Bipin Nadkarni in Hindi cinema, based on Rabindranath Tagore's story Khokababur Pratyabartan (The Return of Little Master), reportedly written towards the end of the nineteenth century. The subject has been earlier adapted in Bengali and revolves around a loyal servant who unfortunately makes a grave mistake while looking after the child of his master and tries to repay for the same in an unbelievable manner.
The heart-warming tale of sacrifice, loyalty and love has only a few characters going through their individual traumas set in the time period (of a few decades) beginning from 1971 when India’s coal mines were getting nationalised. The protagonist who begins his association with a family as a young caretaker of their baby is hired again by the same baby turned into a man after many years to look after his infant son. But destiny plays a cruel game and guilt forces the caretaker to take a life-changing decision, sacrificing his own dreams.
As a film, Darbaan has a touching, unimaginable kind of storyline that keeps you engrossed and involved despite the dragging pace in its second half. But what truly helps or redeems the presentation is the performance of Sharib Hashmi rising above every other name in the cast, including Rasika Dugal, Sharad Kelkar, Flora Saini, Harsh Chhaya and more. In fact, the supporting cast keeps struggling to match the highly emotional portrayal of Hashmi, and only Rasika manages to come close to him in her short appearance.
The film also gets good support from its soothing background music, the songs and an eye-catching cinematography. However, where many insertions look superficial missing the emotional connect, the continuing voice-over of Anu Kapoor doesn’t work after a while, becoming too much interfering in the on-going proceedings. To be fair, the direction has its sincere moments, but the writing never tries to explore the depth, intentionally escaping the required explanations and reasoning, especially in the concluding 30 minutes of its 90-minute duration.
In all, Darbaan would certainly appeal to the viewers who have not read the original story by Tagore, witnessing it for the very first time. But for the viewers very much familiar with the expressive original text and its emotional flow, it will be nothing more than an average project saved by its lead act. So do watch it for Sharib Hashmi in particular, without expecting much in terms of an in-depth exploitation of a sensitive subject.
Note: The film has been dedicated to Shashi Kapoor and showcases a slide in the beginning with the quote – “Guilt is never to be doubted”. But strangely the credit for the quote is misspelt as Franz Hafka instead of Franz Kafka.
Cast: Sharib Hashmi, Sharad Kelkar, Rasika Dugal, Flora Saini, Harsh Chhaya, Suneeta Sengupta & Varun Sharma
Director: Bipin Nadkarni
Rating: 3/ 5