Film: "Mantra"; Director: Nicholas Kharkongor; Cast: Rajat Kapoor, Kalki Koechlin, Shiv Pandit, Adil Husain, Lushin Dubey; Rating: **
The title "Mantra" conjures a mysterious as well as an exotic tale in the eyes of a prospective viewer, but in reality, Nicholas Kharkongor's film is the story of a dysfunctional family in the backdrop of the nationwide 'India Shining' campaign.
Set in Delhi in 2004, the family consists of Kapil Kapoor (Rajat Kapoor) a local business man who is having a tough time trying to survive the multinational onslaught, his entrepreneur wife Minnashi (Lushin Dubey) aka Minna, who is craving for his attention, Priya (Kalki Koechlin) their daughter who is also a chef and wants to live independently, Viraj (Shiv Pandit) their restaurateur son who runs a restaurant Mantra and has plans for expansion and Vir (Rohan Joshi) their younger son, who is infatuated with a married lady he met over social media.
Made on a shoe string budget with crowd funding, the film is technically savvy with impressively shot frames, brilliant edits and matching background score. But unfortunately it lacks chutzpah in the scripting department.
The film seems to be intellectually well-crafted simply because it is layered over an economic period of the country and it captures the ordinary lives of the Kapoor family with all the underlying tension between is members. But in reality, such stories are everyday occurrence in a vast country like ours, where every family's story is worth documenting at some stage or the other.
Hence the entire plot seems sardonic, conceited and contrived, drawn up for effect. This is evident especially when Priya is weeping her heart out to the stranger (Adil Husain) below the hoarding that screams, 'India Shining, Let's Make Our India Shine'.
Also in between those long pauses, the verbose exposition and outbursts seem entirely pretentious and dramatic. This can be noted when Priya tells her mother to have an affair with her colleague or Vir telling his online friend when they meet, "I don't see the co-relation between sex and academic qualifications", or when Viraj comes over to Priya and tells her that he has slept with a girl he just met.
And the name of Viraj's restaurant, "Mantra" has no direct linkage to the title of the film. It appears to be just incidental. But then when some goons come over to deface the restaurant, his partner Shazia Siddique states, "You're in India, you've to suck up to the system". This is the only mantra that emerges from the film, which is not very flattering.
On the performance front, all the actors are natural and brilliant, but with the entire setting seeming staged, they don't stand out. Adil in a two scene role is wasted.
Overall, the film offers nothing concrete nor does it reveal anything new or exciting. It is a let-down, as it does not leave an impact. Nevertheless, it showcases Kharkongor's skills lavishly.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)