The Bright Day: Goa Film Bazaar Review

A coddled Indian youth searches for life’s meaning along the Ganges in an exotic but uncompelling spiritual quest

A colorful journey through India by stage director Mohit Takalkar features veterans Mohan Agashe and Rajit Kapur along with newcomer Sarang Sathay.

There’s something perennially fascinating about a trip of self-discovery up the Ganges, and Indian stage director Mohit Takalkar skilfully taps into the general mystique in The Bright Day.  The film’s ability to stir memories in Western audiences earned it a grand jury award and Takalkar best director kudos at New York’s recently concluded South Asian International Film Festival, following its Toronto bow. But it will take a mellow viewer, indeed, to find any kind of transcendental feeling in the predictable characters and storytelling, and the tale’s basic unevenness will probably confine it to festivals outside India.

One of the main problems is empathizing, even slightly, with the 23-year-old hero Shiv (Sarang Sathaye), the spoiled offspring of well-to-do parents (Rajit Kapur, Shernaz Patel) who shower him with money while they worry that he isn’t exactly on a career path. In fact Shiv, whose curly hair initially gives him an early Bob Dylan look, restlessly mopes around the house when he’s not out criticizing materialism to his friends. The first part of the film may ring true for local audiences, but its pat obviousness is painful.

At last Shiv decides to slam the door on his cushy life and “give up the world.” He breaks up with his controlling girlfriend, packs his Nikon and its foot-long lens and heads for the hills, letting his hair and beard grow out. Part of his journey is shared with a blonde foreigner (Kelly Marie Miller) as lost as he is, and their dallying adds up to very little besides wasted screen time.

The scenes in Varanasi, a.k.a. Benares, are the most accomplished. First-time director Takalkar finally sets down his theatrical baggage to relate to the extraordinary surroundings, aided by Amol Gole's very able cinematography. Details like a young underage girl, soon to be a mother, singing melancholy songs on a balcony are closely observed and leave behind a lingering, undefinable impression. Versatile actor Mohan Agashe (Mississippi Masala) adds a note of subtle humor as a saffron-robed sadhu who has the only original and truthful-sounding dialog in the film. Whether the ego-bound Shiv gets it is another question.     

Venue: Goa Film Bazaar, Nov. 21, 2012

Production company:  Nek Iraada Films in association with White Copper Entertainment
Cast:  Sarang Sathaye, Rajit Kapur, Shernaz Patel, Radhika Apte, Kelly Marie Miller, Mohan Agashe

Director: Mohit Takalkar  
Screenwriters: Mohit Takalkar, Varun Narvekar  
Producer: Abhijeet Bhosale  
Executive producer: Nachiket Chidgopkar  
Director of photography:  Amol Gole
Production designer:  Ashish Mehta
Music:  Benedict Taylor
Costume designer:  Rashmi Rode
Editor:  Mohit Takalkar
Sales:  Nek Iraada Films
No rating, 94 minutes.