Cast: Shreyas Talpade, Amrita Rao, Divya Dutta, Yashpal Sharma, Rajeshwari Sachdeo,
Ravi Kishan, Ila Arun
Story Writer: Shyam Benegal
Producer: Ronnie Screwvala
Director: Shyam Benegal
Welcome to a new brand of Shyam Benegal cinema. The man who’s made some realistic, slice-of-life dramas, changes gears in Welcome To Sajjanpur and comes up with a frothy, humourous, dramatic and heart-winning story that reeks of apne des ki mitti.
No item girls here. No phoren locations. Just a small, dusty hamlet named Sajjanpur where an aspiring novelist Mahadev ( Shreyas Talpade ) makes his living by writing letters for the illiterate village folk. And what a splendid rustic lot they are! There’s
a pretty young married thing ( Amrita Rao ) who’s waiting for her husband to return from the city. She also happens to be Mahadev’s childhood crush. So the charming letter-writer doesn’t mind a little bit of deceit and manipulation in winning her over.
There’s a superstitious mother ( Ila Arun ) who wants to get her manglik daughter ( Divya Dutta ) married. There’s a dreamy-eyed compounder (Ravi Kishen) in love with a widow ( Rajeshwari Sachdev ). There’s a eunuch contesting elections. And there’s a goon with political ambitions (quite naturally).
In such a colourful melee of characters unravels not just the story of coming of age of the protagonist, but also touching tales of each character. Some of these tales end on a tragic note, even though the film’s denouement is optimistic.
Ashok Mishra’s dialogues reek of rustic flavour and are laced with witty humour that any layman can easily identify with. Every character in the story is properly fleshed out – at times more than needed. And Shyam Benegal tells this character-driven story with utmost simplicity and straightforwardness.
That’s the beauty of ‘Welcome To Sajjanpur’. It’s simple, yet difficult to categorize in any particular genre.
Shreyas Talpade carries off the pivotal role with flamboyance and conviction. Amrita Rao is gracefully restrained. Ila Arun is perfectly cast. Divya Dutta is brilliant in a small role. Yashpal Sharma as the goon is superb while Ravi Kishen is just about passable.
Ideally, ‘Welcome To Sajjanpur’ would have been better without songs, but they don’t irk you like the ill-placed, deliberately squeezed-in item songs in any conventional Bollywood fare.
For even though ‘Welcome To Sajjanpur’ tells a simple and touching tale, it does so unconventionally.
Worth A Watch.