Movie Review B A Pass
Cast: Shilpa Shukla, Shadab Kamal, Rajesh Sharma, Dibyendu Bhattacharya,Geeta Sharma
Director: Ajay Bahl
Rating: * * *
However, B.A. PASS is not just another (erotic) film, which encashes and emphasises on sex unnecessarily or showcases sensuality to titillate, as is the norm in conventional films. Despite its dark subject & being an erotic drama at heart, B.A. PASS showcases erotica in its truest sense, without accentuating bosom thrusts and pelvic moves into the camera right onto the viewer's face. B.A. PASS raises the bar of showcasing love-making scenes like nobody has done before in the milieu of Indian Cinema.
B.A. PASS is based on one of the stories, THE RAILWAY AUNTY (by Mohan Sikka), from the book DELHI NOIR, an anthology (collections of short stories) based mainly in and around Delhi-NCR, which was published in 2010.
Sublime Dark tragedy
B.A.Pass is Ajay Bahl’s first film as a director and a feature cinematographer and it’s a revelation- especially since it comes from someone who hasn’t been formally trained in either direction or cinematography. The film is a dark, despairing tale of a young man drawn into the world of male prostitution — the protagonist , a naive young teen leaves the comfort and security of his village abode and moves to comparatively up-market , middle class Delhi to reside with his aunt( following an accident which claimed the lives of his parents). Unfortunately he falls prey to the wiles and viciousness of a morally corrupt society. The title, a reference to a basic university degree in India , exemplifies the treachery and vitiation that even the lowliest of ambitions can bring forth, and as such owes it’s antecedents more to Shakespeare and Greek tragedy.
Set in the nether-depths of Delhi, B.A.Pass is a story looking at the fatal promise of a new life. Mukesh(Shadab Kamal) and his two sisters are devastated when they lose their parents in an accident and have now to look up to their ailing grandfather for succor. The grandfather agrees to support the girls while Mukesh is sent off to Delhi with his aunt and uncle , albeit reluctantly, in order to educate himself and eventually assume responsibility for his orphaned sisters . His aunt and young cousin leave no stone unturned to make him feel like a burden -- and in the meanwhile his grandfather passes away and his sisters are sent to a girls home – in the hope that Mukesh will be able to assume responsibility for them once his education is complete. Mukesh is already having to fend for himself as well as do all the odd-jobs arising on the home front so his plate is full when bored housewife Sarika(Shilpa Shukla) spots him at the kitty party held at his aunt’s home. From thereon begins his decent into hell! The innocent teen is thrown into a spiral of circumstances which he can do little to control. From satiating Sarika aunty’s sadomasochistic desires to doing business with other such bored housewives with a penchant for kinky pleasures, Mukesh keeps sinking deeper into a vitiating vortex of sex and crime and finds himself desperate for a way out. His friendship with a graveyard caretaker Johnny(Dibyendu Bhattacharya) is the only silver-lining but even that fails him in his hour of need. Just when he begins to see a glimmer of hope, things begin to fall apart and a desperate Mukesh is left seeking answers --- eventually leading to his self-destruction and criminality.
The narrative moves at an engaging pace- as layer by layer unravels with Mukesh sinking deeper and deeper into a hole from where there is no escape. The naive innocent teen is drawn into the vortex of illicit sex and crime as a means of escape from the harsh realities of his existence but little does he realise that there is no escaping the downward spiral his life takes from thereon. Innocence is destroyed and a desperation driven crime leaves no room for survival. It’s a curious twist of destiny, a kind of story that appears in the tabloids as unusual acts of crime.
Based on the ‘Delhi Noir’ (Harpercollins 2010) short story ‘The Railway Aunty’ by Mohan Sikka , Ajay Bahl’s film reveals a side of middle class society that has found little exposure in the mainstream media. Delhi by night , neon lights shining et al, looks fantastic thanks to Ajay Bahl’s engaging and beguiling camerawork. Despite the loose-linked script Ajay manages to keep the viewer engrossed with his superbly calibrated narrative. The takes are illuminating, the set-up is straight-forward while the development is perfunctory. There’s a certain economy to the run of play. The level of clarity, depth and vision seen here is quite a rarity. Despite the degenerating tragedy as it’s focal point, Bahl manages to keep the melodrama at bay. The economy with which he weaves this illuminating tale is certainly emphatic. Bahl’s skill with lighting is also credit-worthy. The manner in which he frames each scene lends masterly significance to the major plot points. The neon lights in the night scenes are exquisitely filmed. The scene compositions are first rate and the production design ( Also credited to Bahl) is classy. In fact, even the sex scenes have been shot aesthetically keeping Indian sensibilities in mind.
The story itself is interesting- It’s a very different side of India, one that has rarely been seen on film. The main focus is on the steamy, twisted relationship between Sarika and Mukesh and shifts to the grittier vein when Mukesh side-steps into prostitution. The performances by the ensemble cast complement the richness of the narrative. Each one is calibrated with a precision that is rare in a first feature. Shadab Kamal has the meatier author backed role and he burrows into the character, Mukesh, with great earnest. His innocence and guilelessness lend instant empathy to Mukesh. Dibyendu Bhattacharya as Johnny, the caretaker of a graveyard who befriends Mukesh, makes his presence felt without resorting to overplaying. The other members of the cast also give fitting performances but the standout performance comes from Shilpa Shukla. As the discontented housewife who preys on young boys- she pulls off a very difficult act hinting at a sensual promise without allowing it to degenerate into sleaze. The character, Sarika, has many shades, and Shilpa’s acting skills coupled with her magnetic screen presence make the effort memorable. This film is truly a memorable effort on most fronts!