Anant Mahadevan’s Gour Hari Dastaan (2015), based on a true story, moves slowly on the screen for 114 minutes. It is possible that the slow narrative is intended to correspond with the slow functioning of the Indian bureaucracy. The plot is simple; it revolves around a struggling Indian who devotes his entire life proving himself to have been a freedom fighter to avail of the designated pension. The tired, honest, slow-speaking persona of Gour Hari Das (read an interview of the real Gour Hari Das here) has been brilliantly portrayed by Vinay Pathak.
The concluding dialogue in the movie, “sara bachpan azad desh ke liye barbad kar diya aur azad desh ne sara jeewan barbad kar diya” (I have ruined my entire childhood for a free India, and a free India has ruined my entire life) finds an echo in almost any narrative that involves themes like the independence struggle. These were simple people who suffered and sacrificed for our freedom from imperialism dreaming of a new dawn wherein India would be free of corruption, hunger, exploitation and divisive forces, but in due course, they found their new dream unrealized, their hopes shattered.
The emotional depiction of Gour Hari Das’s plight finds release through slow dialogue delivery, a minimum number of jealous neighbours and few untiring rounds throughout the city. After every official document that adds to his freedom file fails to justify his identity, Gour manages to find his story imprinted on an old jailer’s diary. Isn’t that strange? That too when Das was imprisoned along with the entire “banarsena”, he had nothing unusual to add to his credit of contribution, but the diary had dates, his trial and his imprisonment mentioned clearly! The movie tries to emphasize several themes within the screenplay duration. It brings about the topic of reservations as Das’s son fails to get an admission as he did not fall under the two dominant categories for reservation, he was neither a Dalit nor could he prove himself to be the son of a freedom fighter. The movie tried its best to bring to surface the paper worth that controls our nation’s working, we need a certificate to prove every single deed, and we need a paper that holds every single dimension attached to our existence. The low pace of official proceedings is the prime concern which successfully finds its space in the movie. The actors represent a bunch of frustrated individuals, each having something depressing within them. Female actors do not play a significant role, either getting characterized as feminists who demand equality or they remain indoors assisting the tired husband through advices. Konkana as always justifies her role as Das’s wife. Ranvir Shorey fits into the role of a struggling journalist.
The movie does not have songs; it has some background score with a touch of native grace. The narrative includes flashbacks which have been used well to elucidate the theme of the movie. The film has beautifully challenged the new India and its system, and has brought out a contrast between the ruled and the ruling India. “Azaadi humari kabhi nahin hui, azaadi to netaon ko mili hai” (Freedom was never ours, it is only for our politicians) or be it the line, “hum se behtar angrez thein, kam se kam unhein apne dushman ki pehchan thi” (The British were better than us, they knew at least who their enemy was).
Altogether, the movie succeeds as a political narrative based on the life of a freedom fighter looking for a certificate to prove his identity. It is a sensitive portrayal that would shame us into thinking how so many of us fail to honour our real heroes, who were not only leaders of the freedom movement but also the common people who could make it possible for those personalities to qualify as leaders.
(Image Courtesy: Flickr)