Sparsh (1980)

Review Nov 11, 2020

This is a throwback to an era long gone, an era of carefully cultured conversation and speaking glances, where everyone is oh so courteous and kind. It is a movie with shaky cinematography and blurred edges, although the latter could have been due to my stellar internet connection. Regardless, the overall effect is very charming, in keeping with the slow, measured pace of the film, the gentle cadences of a bygone era.

There is a marked lack of melodrama, and the entire film plays out much like real life, mostly due to the excellent performances by Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi, and the little boys. The plot is pretty basic, and free of fripperies: a blind young man, the principal of a school for the blind; a woman bereaved and lonely, who form a tentative attachment towards each other. We see Mr. Shah playing his favourite role, that of a young man, angry at the world. Anirudh, the character he plays, is disillusioned and very defensive about his disability. He is extremely sensitive about people pitying him, and he wants to be seen as himself, liked and respected for himself, and not as a blind man. He rejects the little kindnesses people show towards him, and goes as far as to spurn love, for he feels he can never be worthy of it. Put that way, it sounds rather clichéd: there are many bits of the film where it takes one almost to the point of cringing, at some of the dialogues of the boys, for instance. However, that sort of behavior and conversation is true to the age, and is unpretentious in the extreme. The whole movie is a very honest portrayal of the times, and of the sort of anglicized upper crust society of the eighties. And it truly has an amazing wardrobe. The sedate silk sarees of Kavita (played by Ms. Azmi) offset the more playful floral ones worn by her friend Manju (Sudha Chopra). Anirudh, the protagonist, is shown in sweater vests and blazers, with an odd shawl or two thrown on. It is reminiscent of dark academia, especially set against the background of a rambling old schoolhouse, with tall trees and pristine lawns. The younger boys are shown with long legs sticking out of the high waisted short pants of the eighties, and there is a general air of messy hair and smudged faces.

There is a sort of meek deference shown by Kavita towards Anirudh that got on my nerves a lot, while watching this movie. I found it very hard to relate to her throughout the movie, mostly because of the time I live in: I cannot abide a woman so submissive, so spiritless in the face of rampant moodiness and general boorishness. The behavior of Anirudh is especially jarring against the backdrop of the overall pleasant behavior by the other characters. It is supposedly reflective of the attitudes and stereotypes of the eighties, and that is possibly, why I do not understand it.

Lastly, the music. I loved the songs in the film. There is a classical bent to the songs, which brings out the richness of the different scenes.

Krittika Roy

DJ LIT Editorial co-committee member

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