Tuesday, Feb 07, 2023 | Last Update : 05:08 PM IST
Television and film director Chandraprakash Dwivedi's long-delayed Mohalla Assi brings to the big screen Hindi litterateur Kashinath Singh's Kashi Ka Assi, a no-holds-barred, insightful take on a Varanasi locality seen through the prism of India's political and economic churn in the 1990s. The majorly flawed, exasperatingly uneven film, which has faced more than its share of censorship trouble, springs to life sporadically in the first half and then loses its way irretrievably in the second.
This stretch of the two-hour film is enlivened by energetic performances from a cast that has Deol portraying earnest, but not really convincing as an Assi dweller. includes Ravi Kishan as a street-smart tourist guide who makes a killing from visitors from the west, Rajendra Gupta as a liberal lawyer who makes no bones about his contempt for Hindutva forces, and Mukesh Tiwari as a pro-Hindutva rabble-rouser. They play people and spout lines that the writer drew from the immediate world around him for his 2004 novel. The performances of every actor are fairly appreciative, but it is the plot and the writing that fails to keep the narrative afloat. With no major inciting moments and a meandering, verbose and clunky exposition, the graph of the plot is flat. The dialogues, infused with local cuss words, over a period of time seem irritatingly forced and painful.
Like the book, Mohalla Assi also touches upon rampant commercialization and consumerism as well as the process of globalization of post-liberalisation India, best exemplified in the story by a wily and ambitious barber who in next to no time mutates into a godman with a following across the US, while the respected Sanskrit teacher clings to his past to the detriment of his family of four.
Sadly, Mohalla Assi is not much of a film. It’s just a collection of choppy scenes, making it seem that it was censored heavily. It’s been in the making for five or six years, and you can see later add-ons. the film captures the ethos astutely and is relevant in today's times, the treatment, look and feel of the film seem a bit outdated.