Mohalla Assi

Cast- Sunny Deol, Sakshi Tanwar, Ravi Kishan, Saurabh Shukla, Mukesh Tiwari, Rajendra Gupta,

Director/ Writer- Chandraprakash Dwidevi

Is story based around a staunch and conservative Brahmin Pandit based in Varanasi’s Assi Ghat and the effects on him and his family life under the changing social , religious, political and economic scenario.

The movie is based on a book “ Kashi ka Assi “ by writer Kashinath Singh. It focuses on a period beginning 1988 and spans a few years. Though the book was written in 2004, the issues touched upon are relevant even today , in fact more so.

Dharmanath Pandey ( Sunny ) is an ultra orthodox priest who is who believes that sanskrit and scriptures are sacrosanct and shouldn’t be commercialised. He’s against English language and renting out of Brahmin premises to foreigners.

Sakshi Tanwar plays his wife who is a strong woman, more balanced between the need to change with time and yet stick to the basic ideology .

Ravi Kishan plays an enterprising tourist guide and a tout who helps foreigners find accommodation and all else they need.

It was interesting to see the business network they had in the small community of that area.

As explained in a dialogue in the film “ Pehle samaaj mei bazaar hota thha, ab bazaar mei samaaj hai “. Only the enterprising survive .

The life of people in and around assi ghat has been depicted in detail. The “ pandas”, “ mallahs”, the tourist guide/tout ,the barber/ tout , how their livelihoods thrive on the religious tourism and how they have coped up with the increasing consumerism, inclination towards more materialistic life and given in to increased opportunities with foreign religious tourism .

The debates in and around the tea and paan stalls , an integral part of our small town life has been used to present some varied thoughts and political and religious ideologies. You would see an anti right wing man, a liberal lawyer, some right wing extremists and a left wing man debating about various relevant topics like the effect of foreign tourism on Varanasi’s culture, Ayodhya Ram temple issue etc .

It was interesting to see facts presented in a simple straightforward and no holds barred language. I didn’t find any matter controversial enough for the movie to have been held up for years though.

In fact had the script been handled better, it would have been a very impactful movie.

But in course of adaptation, the effect fizzles out.

Sunny was a big misfit. Neither his performance, nor the appearance or the dialogue delivery was to the requirement of the character. Wonder what made Chander Prakash Dwivedi select him.

Sakshi Tanwar shines with all those various shades to her character. The dutiful, hardworking wife and the outspoken woman.

The movie gives us a detailed picture of changing Varanasi, its class divide, religious inclination and a metamorphosis with time, Whether for good or for bad is for you to ponder and that assessment made it an interesting watch for me.

The song during end credits “ Ganga Re Kabhi “ was melodious. Sung by Sukhwinder and Music by Amod Bhatt.

Overall, the movie can be an interesting watch for those who like strong dose of socio- political and religious flavour to their cinema. Barring Sunny , the film has a good cast and decent performances. Could prompt you to planning a visit to Varanasi soon. Would be interesting to check out the current scenario in Assi Ghat.

Score 6 on 10

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