Based on Premchand’s Idgah, the Shabana Azmi-starrer is a story of love, familial faith and selflessness.
The DC South Asian Film Festival took place in full swing last weekend and presented a wide array of excellent films either from South Asia or made by/starring South Asian filmmakers and actors. On the opening night, audiences were treated to the screening of a beautiful Indian film, 5 Rupaiya, directed by Piyush Chandrakant Panjuani and starring Shabana Azmi and Yohaan Bimal Panjuani.
5 Rupaiya is based off of a famous short story by legendary Indian writer Munshi Premchand, Idgah, and is a story of love, familial faith and selflessness. It tells the tale of an indelible bond between a grandmother (played by Shabana) and her grandson (played by Yohaan). Tragic circumstances brought these two together but, despite these adversities, they share a lovely relationship with a seemingly happy life. When Eid comes around, certain incidences occur which force both leading characters to display their philosophies on their relationship in the open. What are these philosophies? Does this cause tension in their relationship? What is the foundation with which their relationship is built? To find answers to these questions, one must see the film!
In terms of performances, the legendary Shabana Azmi is absolute gold. She has given great performances for many years, and I have seen several of her films, but this to me is her best and most touching performance. Her expressions are subtle and realistic, her happiness and sorrows displaying with equal inner heft. In life, we tend to internalize our emotions when we think of them by ourselves and that real life aspect is brought about wonderfully by her. One particular sequence in which she is alone in her hut and speaking to a picture of her son about the activities of her grandson is a masterful point in the movie. Was a legend, is a legend and will always be a legend.
Yohaan Panjuani steals the show as the grandson. He is adorable, sweet, and earnest while at the same time a very mature actor (and character) for his young age. His acting in the climax brought me near tears and the innocence in his performance is what contributed to the power of that scene. Such a great talent, with no false note in his performance. I hope that we see more of him in films. A remarkable young actor and great find by the director!
The supporting actors are also excellent, especially the grandson’s friends and the women who try to instigate Shabana against her grandson.
Now to the direction. Piyush Panjuani has crafted an amazing work of art. In this world of dark films that are devoid of love, emotion and hope from humanity, here is a film that brings a simple smile to everyone’s face and touches one’s heart deeply. Where today we see societies that are wracked by hate and people driven by selfishness and greed, this film points to the importance of living for others. The joys of innocence. The purity of youth. I think a theme that resonated with me particularly, and this is my personal interpretation, is that here it is the child who is the better person than the so-called more experienced adults. So does life deteriorate a person’s outlook on relationships? Do we mistrust more as we go through life? Is that a good thing? I felt these were some underlying questions the film may have sought to pose in its message. The script is brisk, with the right amount of humor and emotions. There is nothing unnecessary or extraneous at all. The editing and music is also woven together fluidly.
I also want to give a special shout out to the beautiful sequences sprinkled throughout the film with the Dervish. They accentuate the mood of the movie gloriously.
All in all, this is a gem of a film which will make you laugh, cry and think. Kudos to the whole team. It deserves all of the success it receives and more. One of the best films I have seen, don’t miss this and please do show your family. I give it 5/5.