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Film Review - Leela

Chitra Parayath
03/03/2003

Director : Somnath Sen
Producer: Kavita Munjal, Anjalika Mathur
Starring : Amol Mhatre, Dimple Kapadia, Vinod Khanna, Deepti Nawal, Gulshan Grover

'Leela' is a perceptive film about relationships, and human nature as it explores the unstable dynamic of people in transition, in a constantly changing world. Somnath Sen’s film is a clever exploration of insecurities, infidelities, superficiality, and mid-life crises in a suburban, middle-class Indian American community.

Leela , is also a coming of age story, each of its main characters attain some kind of closure emotionally and physically by the end of the film. There is the protagonist Leela, Dimple in a brilliant performance as a visiting professor from India (whose character, this reviewer found staid and boring- she plays it to the T), finding time away from her loving but philandering spouse strangely liberating. Then there is Chaitali, played a tad too earnestly and efficiently by the talented Deepti Nawal, a self described postmodern woman with a chip on her shoulder the size of Texas. Kris (Krishna) is Amol Mhatre, son of Chaitali and Jai (Gulshan Grover, another casting triumph) essaying the role of an angst ridden Indian American teenager with a crush on his professor.
Vinod Khanna appears briefly in a cameo, as Nashaad, Leela’s husband and turns in a decent performance, the scene where he beats young Kris at a Jugalbandi of sorts, is priceless in its subtlety.
Amol Mhatre turns in an utterly believable performance, he is every bit the character he has to portray, vulnerable, confused and unsure of his own identity.

While the film does have its share of faults and tonal inconsistencies, it is provocative, entertaining and its presentation of vivid characters in interesting situations makes the story seem fresh.

Somnath Sen has worked as editor, screen writer, director of photography and production coordinator in over a hundred projects, including feature films, documentaries, music videos, corporate films and commercials.
In this astonishing filmmaking debut, he balances many different notes and story elements without losing sight, in all the emotional chaos …of the heart.

The photography by Steven Douglas Smith is rewarding, though editing by Suresh Pai could have been better. While we want to linger a little longer in some moments (one comes to mind – the easy comfortable friendship that exists between Leela and Chaitali suffers the first causality when over glasses of tea…or wine Chaitali realizes the special relationship her son shares with his teacher), the pace seems hurried there and one feels a sense of abandonment.

Music for Leela is composed by Jagjit Singh, predictable but eminently enjoyable and the lyrics are by Gulzar.



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