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‘Lashtam Pashtam’: Exploring an India-Pakistan friendship

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Newcomers Samar Virmani and Vibhav Roy shine in Lashtam Pashtam.

Last weekend, during the DC South Asian Film Festival (DCSAFF), audiences had the opportunity to be exposed to many different kind of films that ranged from topics dealing with relationships, friendship, love and culture to tradition and social issues. One such ambitious film, that covered all of these issues, was the recently released Lashtam Pashtam, directed by Manav Bhalla and starring Samar Virmani, Vibhav Roy, Om Puri, Ishita Dutta, Tisca Chopra, Dolly Ahluwalia and Feryna Wazheir. I had the great pleasure of watching this film at DCSAFF and wanted to share why I truly enjoyed this film.

The film tells the story of two friends, Sid (Virmani) and Fahd (Roy), who are respectively from India and Pakistan. The best of friends, they do everything together and develop an unshakable bond. When circumstances threaten to break them apart, amidst a tennis match that both are taking part in, their friendship is tested. Will issues bigger and unrelated to their friendship break them apart? Will they reconcile? To find out, you have to see Lashtam Pashtam.

I want to give a huge round of applause to all of the actors, especially the two newcomers Samar Virmani and Vibhav Roy. For their first film, they put in not only earnest performances, but subtle and understated ones. There is no “herogiri” here, only focus on the graph that the characters are supposed to traverse during the course of the film. Samar displays excellently the frustration, confusion and dilemma his character faces between the conflicts that pertain to his family versus his friendship. Vibhav puts in a heartwarming performance as the kind and selfless friend, who tolerates the eccentricities of his best friend. More than that, it is heartening to see two completely new and fresh actors perform so well in their first film without a false note. Excellent job!

Dolly Ahluwalia steals the show as Sid’s grandmother. Her performance, with a tinge of mischievousness, brings the house down every time she comes. Tisca Chopra and Ishita Dutta are complete naturals in their respective performances, and Feryna Wazheir adds interesting layers, as well as, glamor to the film with her charming performance as Madiha.

A special mention must go to the legendary Om Puri. He does not have a huge role in the film, but he is magnetic every time he comes on screen. This is an actor who was par excellence and understood each and every character well. Once again, he dazzles with a great performance as the cab driver listening to Sid’s story in flashback. His aura, presence and voice and overall contribution to Indian cinema will always be missed.

Editing of the film is paced quite well, and it clocks in a run time under two hours. Cinematography, in particular of Dubai, is done well and shows aspects of Dubai not seen in many films before. This film shows the more natural tones of the city, which is much appreciated when compared to the focus on only landmarks in other films. What is also cool is that the film was shot in both India and Pakistan as well!

Now to the direction, Manav Bhalla is a very ambitious director. He has been able to synthesize friendship, conflict between two nations, love and individualized morality into a complete package, and that too with great performances. This is no easy task, and I felt that he blended these together wonderfully. Most importantly, what resonated with me, is the fact that the film brings forth a positive message and also takes great care in presenting the most sensible and balanced outlook on the sets of issues it portrays. Whereas many films take the route of extreme emotion, sadness and depression to display these issues, Bhalla and co-writer Nitin Keswani present a light approach towards achieving an outcome which is happy. Today, where entertainment is violent and dark, I appreciate this touch of positivity greatly. We could do with more such films that give messages of peace and tranquility! This is why I enjoyed this film.

If there is anything that I would change, and this is only me personally, I would shorten the love story angles and remove the songs. The songs are very catchy and shot very well (special shout out to the music director for a job well done) , but given the emotional ride of the story, those emotions would come more strongly and realistically without those elements. The love story angle also takes away a little bit from the friendship piece at certain points, which is actually the main focus of the plot. Additionally, I would shorten one particular outburst sequence during a tennis match, featuring the grandmother, for brevity and more realism during the proceedings.

All in all, Lashtam Pashtam is a nice film with a great message and performances. I will go with a 4/5 for it. If you do have the opportunity to watch it, don’t miss it.

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