Here is one movie that couldn’t have had a better time for release. You are talking about a whole generation who has been kept away from the contribution that the second Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri had in making India what it is today. Centrally, the movie revolves around the death of our beloved Prime Minister in 1966, but aside from that one question, there are a lot of others that we delve throughout the movie. For instance, India is the land of Gandhis and Nehrus; “why not Shastriji’s?”
Given the patriotism that underpins the movie, I’d rate it a decent 4.5 out of five stars. Like always, a detailed review follows…
The movie begins with Shweta Basu Prasad, the Makdi fame, playing Ragini Phule, who migrates from Pune to New Delhi in search of making her life in journalism. She is in dire need for a scoop when a mystery caller asks her questions on Indian political leaders. As a reward for her correct answers, he shares a docket with her that contains the information she requires to create a scooping story.
The movie graduates in its proposition organically for both us and for Ragini. She and her scoop gain the required popularity and overnight she becomes a celebrity. A controversy raises over finding the people or political powers behind the death of Shastriji. For this, a committee is set up. She gets added to the committee as a member and, thus, moves the story to its conclusion.
Here’s what I liked:
The movie is an improved version of the 1957 Hollywood classic 12 Angry Men—also adopted into Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (in 1986)—in so much as it is not filmed in only one room. Not for the sake of wordplay, the movie has a lot of “room” with respect to the capability the characters have. You will notice a lot of headshots and close-up portraits that help you grasp the intensity of the actors.
The actors have been carefully chosen and plotted into the movie. Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri, the director, gives everyone enough depth to contribute positively to the movie. The characters they played are metaphors for roles from journalism to the judiciary and from the public to politics. All of them have done a fantastic job. Their acting talent has assisted the lead actor and the director in bringing out their respective best.
I liked the way Ragini’s character is sketched. Her transformation is visible, not just in terms of moving from finding a scoop to finding the truth, but the better person that she becomes toward the end of the movie. We all undergo that transformation with her.
The director has used a lot of real, authentic footage, news headlines, and quotes a few letters, books, articles, and people (Shastriji’s grandson, for instance). This brings some solid authenticity to the movie and to the alleged assassination of Shastriji. A book named The Mitrokhin Archives finds a prominent mention. It plays an integral part in the movie.
The dialogues are a combination of good one-liners and hard-hitting realities. Given the genre of the movie, that’s a must.
I also liked how subtly the music director has changed the background song “Sab chalta hai” to “sach chalta hai” with the progression of the story. The second half of the movie shares some interesting, unknown facts that help form the micro-plots for you to form the complete picture. The ending is also good because it brings another reality of politics to the surface.
I would have liked Vivek Agnihotri to mind these gaps:
For all the while, it is the director, Vivek, who plays the mystery caller. Toward the end, it is Mithun Chakraborty’s character, Shyam Sundar Tripathi, that is shown to be the mystery caller. I’d have liked either Vivek to play that role or would have used Mithun’s voice for the mystery caller.
I really wanted Ragini Phule to handle the manuscript of “The Tashkent Files” more carefully. I mean who carries it out in the open. If V D Bakshi knew that his life was under threat, why did he do so? Also, why would he have written “The Tashkent Files” on the very front cover of the manuscript? It looks fake. Had the manuscript been unnamed, its pages, torn and turned yellow—like it is with a lot of old books—it would have looked authentic.
Vinay Pathak has considerably underplayed his character. I don’t know for what reason.
Here’s my conclusion:
The Tashkent Files conveys the message it was made to convey; it rather conveys the message a little too strongly.
More than the right-wing versus the left-wing politics, the movie is about the dual that we fight every day in our own minds. The movie leaves us with a revelation about ourselves and about the world around us. The movie also leaves us with a lot of questions.
With this effort, Vivek manages to successfully walk the thin tightrope that bridges assumed reality with history and aligns facts with intentions. Even though the movie releases with the General Elections just around the corner, it doesn’t influence people’s votes in any way. We all are empowered enough to connect the dots. I will end this the way Vivek and Mithun end the movie, “welcome to politics.”