The line between artsy and pretentious is a thin one. In fact, it’s so thin that many filmmakers often cross over to the pretentious side without intending to. But times, they are a-changin’, making way for a growing number of wonderful independent productions. Masaan is one of them.

Set in Varanasi, the film follows the distinct yet interconnected stories of people plagued by our society. The first story is that of Devi Pathak (Richa Chadda), a young woman who is stuck in a web of blackmail and shame, after a sexual encounter is busted by some greedy cops. Devi’s little mishap also lands her father in a world of trouble. In trying to figure out a way to pay off the immoral cops, Vidyadhar (Sanjay Mishra) ends up resorting to some unethical means himself. Meanwhile, romance blooms between Deepak (Vicky Kaushal) and Shaalu (Shweta Tripathi), two people from very different backgrounds. The caste system seems like the biggest hurdle in the couple’s way, but it’s one they’re willing to work around. However, they could never have foreseen the tragedy that tears them apart.

We trace Deepak and Devi’s stories, all in the backdrop of the Holy Ganges, which weaves them together.

Masaan is not an easy film to watch. In fact, it poses some very difficult questions about morality, love and life itself. However, this is what makes it worth watching. Though we might not relate to Deepak and Devi’s stories at face value, these are stories that resonate with all of us. They’re stories of very real people trying to do their best, despite the hand they’ve been dealt. And isn’t that what life is really about?

It also helps that Masaan has a spectacular cast that brings these stories to life. Richa Chadda delivers the finest performance of her career, cementing herself as a force to be reckoned with. She is the perfect embodiment of the guilt, the strength and the spirit that make Devi. Sanjay Mishra, who plays her father, is equally remarkable in his portrayal of a man trying to overcome his demons. Vicky Kaushal also delivers a noteworthy performance, perfectly balancing Deepak’s naivete with his maturity. It would’ve been easy for Masaan to go unnoticed as just another indie flick. However, these performances set the film a class apart from its contemporaries.

It also helps that Masaan doesn’t aim to shock or titillate. Its beauty lies in its simplicity, and the viewer revels in this.

A film’s soundtrack can make or break the whole viewing experience. Fortunately for Masaan, the soundtrack composed by Indian Ocean is one of the finest we’ve heard in years. Not only are the tracks pleasing to hear, but they also perfectly fit their respective scenes, elevating them to a whole new level. Apart from Indian Ocean‘s original compositions, we are also treated to some Bollywood classics like Gazab Ka Hai Din, which feel like they were written for Masaan!

The cinematography is yet another praiseworthy aspect of the film. Avinash Arun makes the most of the stunning backdrop of Varanasi. Just like the story, dialogues and music, the cinematography packs a punch without compromising its simplicity.

For all its wonderful achievements, the thing that works against Masaan is the very nature of its story. Though it is a beautiful, touching tale, it is not one that will appeal to everyone. Masaan is far from your average masala film. It is driven by its characters, instead of the plot. It is serious with the perfect sprinkling of humorous elements. The film will make you think and leave you in awe, and will restore any lost faith in Indian cinema.

Why should you watch this film?
Masaan captures every important element of life, right from the joy of young love to the heartache caused by losing a loved one. It is a simple yet beautiful story that features strong characters, remarkable performances and soul-stirring melodies to boot!