Directed by: Shekar Kapoor
Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Saeed Jaffrey, Tanuja, Supriya Pathak, Jugal Hansraj, Urmila Matondkar
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing
The over the top reactions and dramatics are part of Bollywood and you just have to go with the flow. It is not a bad thing per se (except sometimes, when it does not go over the top, rather like over the galaxy). But from time to time even in Bollywood there are movies which abandon both traditional mainstream formulas and (let´s say) fiercely passionate acting, and become perhaps not a great entertainment, but an interesting probe into more everyday lives of more common people. They are relatable to the fullest and remind us of what it is to be.... well, normal, with the failings and generosity of which we are all capable of. Shekar Kapoor is undoubtedly a great director with a touch for..... that special something which makes your heart feeling all fuzzy in the end. Be it in fantastic extravaganza of Mr. India or quiet, wide-eyed Masoom.
Naseeruddin Shah is a loving husband to Shabana Azmi and an adoring father to their two little daughters (the elder of whom is none other than baby Urmila Matondkar). He has everything he could possibly want, except sometimes he jokes he lacks a son. However he is in for a shock. Once upon a time he was unfaithful to his wife, for reasons he himself cannot explain, and he indeed had sired another off-spring. Now the boy´s mother is dead and he must take responsibility for the child. While he could probably cope with the situation, the child, oblivious about the facts, could easily break his home and all the certainties it once represented.
Not many words are needed for the two spectacular lead actors to convey their painful inner struggle to the viewers. Naseeruddin tells everything with his eyes. With Shabana, it is little things. Slight change of intonation when talking to her own children and her husband´s son. Her apprehension on serving him food. Her own confusion whether to hate the child or not. Hers is not an easy role. Easily she could have become an evil step-mother. Instead she is what she is – a woman trying to cope. She realizes the child is innocent, yet she is not capable of seeing him that way. One cannot hate her even during her more rash outbursts. We just know her pain. At the same time we pity the child. The whole situation is heartbreaking, yet there are no villains, only humans.
The children in the film are really good, Jugal Hansraj especially deals with a heavy-load of his role brilliantly. Shekar Kapoor is one of the very few Bollywood directors who know how to find a child actor, that is not artificial and annoying (which is really Hindi cinema standard even today). The supporting cast too is good, even though I was somehow baffled by the character played by Tanuja. I understand she was meant to be sort of Shabana´s trusted genius, whose own actions would show her friend which road is best to take, unfortunately she was really the one that felt somehow preachy and forced into the plot. Shabana could have made up her mind herself easily enough, without Tanuja´s transformation from „strong, single, yet miserable“ to „beaming with happiness cause my dude decided to come back“. Supriya Pathak makes only a brief appearance in flashbacks. I can only say hee complete difference from Shabana, in both appearance and character, makes it easy to imagine that Naseeruddin fell for the temptation of an unknown and unfamiliar, even if just once.
Masoom is very human, sad but ultimately beautiful, soulful movie. A true tribute to a family spirit. (unlike some other films....)