Verdict: Multiple flaws suctioned to be one film maintains equilibrium. 27 Down is an art film trying hard to be an ‘art film’.
As long as the director stands by his conviction with confidence, be it arty or massy; his job finds an audience applauding, and a section of critics speaking alike. Every filmmaker comes with a set of sensibilities which consciously or sometimes without an effort becomes the essence of his work. But pseudo-intellectualism often translates into a frustrating experience although it gives the makers a high. 27 Down is a film lazy in texture and tone which ultimately leaves the viewer morose.
The film is a story of Sanjay (M.K. Raina) working in the Railways who chances upon an interaction with an LIC employee Shalini (Raakhee Gulzar). They cross paths in the bustling locals of Bombay and fall in love amidst the beehive(ish) crowd of passengers. Fate has in store tragedies, breakup and depression galore. Sanjay’s father disapproves of his alliance with Shalini, and weds him off to a village girl from where the film becomes an attempt to leave the viewer sulking.
The film shot in black and white is an onscreen adaptation of Athara Sooraj Ke Paudhe by author Ramesh Bakshi. The story has potential more so because of the parallels drawn between the protagonist’s life and train journeys by 27 Down. But the overuse and abuse of techniques most-widely seen in art cinema seizes any opportunity for the film to impress. “Log ek jagah se chalkar dusre jagah jaate hai, main hoon jo kahi se chalkar kahi bhi chala jaata hu”. Much like this dialogue, the film seems to have no purpose either to reach a conclusion or to explain its intentional use of ambiguity.
Deceased director Awtar Krishna Kaul’s first and last film scores well on production design and cinematography. Bansi Chandragupta’s work with art brings in realism and Apurba Kishore Bir’s cinematography is noteworthy. The direction is average with a thwack of performances simmering down as the film reaches climax. Sanjay’s journey takes him to brothels ensuring the depressing tone of the film strikes one note higher.
NFDC’s list of productions has had heavy and healthy doses of meaningful cinema with a blend of entertainment. Awtar Kaul’s film is decent pre-interval worth a 3-star rating. But the downfall post-interval is intensely depressing and monotonously boring which fetches the film a 2 star rating. A little mathematics here and 27 Down makes up for an average rating of 2 and half. 27 Down can be viewed only with leniency and a backup plan to rescue from depression.
Why should you watch this film?
Much like the 2014-release Citylights, 27 Down is no entertainment but a failed attempt at making serious cinema. The film has received National awards. If you wish to boast highly in elite circles this might be your catch.
27 Down is a title under the NFDC label ‘Cinemas of India’. The film is out on home video by NFDC.
By Soham Bhattacharyya