Verdict: Better than your average family drama.
Filmmakers of today are becoming more aware of the kind of content in their films. In this day and age, making lewd sexist remarks or racist jokes is just not okay anymore. Sure, movies like Mastizaade still continue to exist, but many prominent filmmakers are more careful about this matter. Movies of today are more relevant and rebellious than ever. Women are given equal importance as men, stories have more connect with the audience, traditional customs are challenged, and family dramas are devoid of the melodrama. One such film that leaves a mark is Mantra.
Written and directed by debutant Nicholas Kharkongor, Mantra portrays the struggle of a man trying to save his company from going bankrupt. Kapil Kapoor (Rajat Kapoor), more commonly known as KK by his friends, owns the potato snack brand King Chips. With the market takeover of his competitor Kipper Chips, KK’s business is swiftly running into losses. His concerns turn to anhedonia, but KK refuses to share his burden with his family. Meanwhile, the Kapoor household has its own issues. The eldest son Viraj (Shiv Pandit) is trying to keep his own business afloat, as he struggles with local political parties. Piya (Kalki Koechlin) is trying to adjust to life in Delhi, after almost getting raped at a party. Vir, the youngest, finds himself in a relationship with a much older woman he met online. And Kapil’s wife Minna (Lushin Dubey) wants a divorce.
An indie film with a unique plot and no star cast, Mantra took two years to release through crowdfunding. Like in the industry, where commercial films rule, indie films like Mantra generally struggle. And this was the theme of Mantra too. It is set in a time when the Indian economy is becoming more liberal and small businesses are overrun by multinationals. The country is progressing and yet the standard of living is still at its worse – this notion runs parallel with the plot, manifesting itself in unusual ways. Hence, the film becomes highly relevant because even today, our country is making strides globally, but still remains one of the most unsafe places to live in.
In terms of performances, Rajat Kapoor was at his best. Very similar to the role he played in Kapoor and Sons last year, Kapoor is not the ideal husband or father, but the average Indian man. The one who struggles to keep his business and family afloat. He suffers but he doesn’t show it. And Kapoor encompasses all this perfectly. Others who shone were Lushin Dubey and Kalki Koechlin. Kalki was the ideal choice for her role and no one could do it better. But Lushin blows your mind, even though she plays the wealthy housewife you have seen in practically every Bollywood movie. Lushin’s character is closer to home and her side of the story touches you the most.
Realistically speaking, Mantra cannot compete against the average Bollywood movies running in the theatres right now. It’s niche, it’s indie, and it’s not to everyone’s liking. Yet, movies like this cannot be ignored. Where it lacks in masala, it makes up with emotional connect. Even without its superstar quotient, Mantra delivers some outstanding performances. There’s no hit gaana but musical elements still exist, which blend in well with the narrative. There are various instances of smoking, and even a slight drug use, but the movie is not meant for children anyway. However, if you are above 15 years of age, you mustn’t miss this film.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
A fantastic cast brought together by an exceptional script, Mantra is highly relevant in today’s times. Learn more about the onset of liberalization in 1991 and see how the narrative strikes a chord even today. Mantra is unique and it leaves you with something to think about.