Monday, August 22, 2005

Neem Ka Ped

For those who want to see a stellar performance by Pankaj Kapoor, and do have some familiarity with Awadhi and Urdu, do not miss the fantastic television serial Neem Ka Ped being telecasted at 3.30 PM on DD National every Sunday. Even those who are not that comfortable with the language can give it a try.

It has been written by renowned Dr Rahi Masoom Raza, who had written the dialogues for BR Chopra's epic Mahabharat, and Yash Chopra's Lamhe, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Golmal, Mili, Jhoothi and Subhash Ghai's Karz.

His novel Adha Gaon is one the greatest work of literature in Hindustani language. With it's back drop as partition, it will shake up your imagination as much as Bishma Sahini's Tamas did. It's a semi-autobiographical work set in the Raza’s village of Gangauli, in Ghazipur district on the fringes of Awadh whose Muslim inhabitants refuse to leave the country. Along with Srilal Shukla's Raag Darbari, it's a must read.

Coming back to Neem Ka Ped, its again set in village India. It's a story of a semi-bonded labourer, Budhai Ram - played(rather, lived) by Pankaj Kapoor, under a Muslim village zamindar. This Muslim landlord is under property dispute with his minister brother-in-law. As circumstances turn out to be, Budhai Ram gets caught between this fight of pride and property. The bone of contention is also the small piece of land on which he has planted a Neem tree as a kid.

His only hopes are his son Sukhai whom he wants to educate and that Neem tree with which he identifies himself, and his beliefs. How a powerless, but determined peasant gets out from this wrangle, saves his Neem Ka Ped against all odds, gets his son educated and turns the tables on his warring landlords. The story line is tremendous, with relevant and engaging sub plots.

All the characters are believable, and I am saying this because I have seen so many of them in real life. And more believable is Pankaj Kapoor aka Budhai Ram. He got so well under the skin of the character that one almost forgets he is somebody else. He is only Budhai Ram for the viewer for that half an hour.

The way he smiles -sheepishly, sarcastically, helplessly, all are different shades of emotion. The way he trudges to work, his steely resolve which he hides succesfully, only to be let out only once in a while, his body language - everything about him force you to take a bow for him.

The dialogues, Raza's forte, are excellent. Pronunciations are perfect. By perfect I mean that the words are spoken incorrectly - the actually way a typical illiterate villager mispronounces. This mispronunciation has been perfectly incorporated in the script and very beautifully carried off by the artists, for e.g. calling 'Lucknow' as 'Nakhlau', and 'Time' as 'Tame' are the typical phonetic mistakes.

Enough said. If I won't stop myself, I will continue on endlessly. But do check it out. It's a masterpiece.

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