Mantra: Pointless Forbearance

Film: Mantra

Cast : Rajat Kapoor, Kalki Koechlin, Lushin Dubey, Kalki Koechlin, Shiv Pandit, Adil Hussain

Director: Nicholas Kharkongor

A family drama about a once successful entrepreneur Kapil Kapoor  a.k.a KK (Rajat Kapoor) coming to terms with his own failings in a Delhi fantastically superimposed by an ‘India Shining’ campaign that hides much more than it showcases. KK is trying hard to shore up the losses accrued from Big Corp competition. Kipper Chips has in fact overtaken all the outlets that once stocked KK’s King Chips so prominently.

After trying to deal with his problems on his own steam and unsuccessful in getting help from family and the handful of politically well-connected friends, KK seeks outside investment from an estranged friend and eventually an angel investor proposed by the very son Viraj (Shiv Pandit) whose business interests he derides frequently.

While the storyline works-up a lather trying to get from point A to B, there are enough moments in the narrative to juice up the thought processes. The handling of  Piya (Kalki Koechlin’s) molestation, a teenager’s experience with sexting, the wife (Lushin Dubey)’s longing for her once devoted husband’s affection and a foreign educated daughter’s attempts to validate her independence by moving away from the family are brought out quite effectively.

It’s the conclusion that spoils it all though. If all the director wanted to do was get KK to involve an angel investor in his business why did he not do it right in the beginning itself? The political backdrop involving the fag end of AB Vajpayee’s reign as PM may have implications on the story but it’s not established with any acuity or depth.

It’s not a bad idea to juxtapose personal estrangement coupled with business losses against a political backdrop that hopes to camouflage the true nature of the systemic crisis facing the country. But director Nicholas Khargongor doesn’t make it count here.

The camerawork has heft—spilling brooding images of Delhi amidst the more prosaic and bustling ones. The performances are all first rate and the characterizations bear resemblance to real life but unfortunately neither the script nor the direction could flesh out a credible story that could have been far more meaningful and worthwhile than this pointless exercise in filmmaking.

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