A Good Story Told Horribly
So you want to tell the story behind gruesome murders but when you go tear you clothes melodramatic, you are doing disservice to the victims and also to the cause. If only the filmmakers had restrained themselves and told the story…
I watched the film at a press screening, which means everyone just guffawed the first time Manav Bannerjee (played by Sharman Joshi) shouted loudly, ‘I’m a journalist!’ to claim a free ride in a bus, then just shook our heads in disbelief when he stomps into the scene (which he’s been photographing) and demands to know ‘what’s in the envelope!’ and, ‘Tell me! I’m a journalist!’
Obviously no one bothered to check how journalists work. No journalist will ever do stupid things like this. No editor would hand over a camera (no matter how much money you give as ‘security’) to a new ‘journalist’ who looks more like an intern (because he just submitted essays he wrote which got him a job), and no journalist who’s taking pictures surreptitiously is going to march up to the supposed conversion ceremony and disrupt it by demanding to see the contents of the envelope. He comes across as completely stupid.
Plus who moves homes when one is not sure of a job, pregnant wife in tow?
So Manav meets editor of the local newspaper who makes it very clear that there is just one story Manav needs to follow: get dirt on Christian missionaries working in Orissa, because they convert the poor when they dole out help. Manav agrees because he thinks so too.
Makes for very poor journalism when they have already reached a conclusion before investigations. But it does not care to show how the poorest of the poor get help when they do convert, otherwise die horrible deaths because the society gives bullshit about Karma and does not help them. There are instances where you want to understand where such deep rooted hatred for the missionaries comes from, but it’s just stated as a fact rather than shown how or why it has become such a big problem…
Anyway, more illogical scenes where Manav tells Graham Staines (played by Stephen Baldwin) that he’s going to report about all the conversions. Graham Staines tells him report about my work, not me.
And you facepalm, because this is such a self-defeating exercise.
Manav acts like he’s in a high school play, where he is supposed to look suspiciously at everything, narrowing his eyes, creeping about in broad daylight.
The second half of the film where the bad guy Mahendra who hears Manav speak against Christians and is inspired to do something gets interesting. The tedious, rambling encounters with the old leper who says he’s cured finally begin to mean something. You want to forgive Manav but who can forget that he touches the leper unknowingly and creates a scene in the bus, then forgets about it and coes home to hug his wife! People bathe before entering their homes when a shadow of an untouchable falls on them, so this scene that Manav creates does not compute…
The extended murder scene is simply horrific. And could have been done with more finesse. But then the whole movie is so melodramatic, the gentleness and forgiveness shown by Graham Staines’ wife seems to be out of place. One expected a over the top mourning scene bringing, ‘Why God?! Why me?!’ style which befits the rest of the film.
The subsequent change of heart for Manav seems to be unbelievable, espcially because he thinks that the children were also recruting people to be converted… His repentence seems to be overdone because they show Manav kneeling in front of Mrs. Staines, pleading forgiveness. It reeks of a telenovella.
I wish this wasn’t such a one sided film. The work done by Graham Staines and his family deserve a better film. The help extended by missionaries need a better champion than this film. It simply ends up being a propaganda for the missionaries and that is such a shame.