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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Ved, review: The craze phase

Ved, review: The craze phase

To those who do not know Marathi, and maybe a few of those who do, the word Ved, with its present spelling, could mean the ancient scripture of Hindus, part of the Vedas. But that is not what it means here. It could also mean ‘time’, which has a similar pronunciation. Negative again. Ved is an approximation of the sound that means madness or craze in Marathi. Ved, the film, is about craze, no doubt. In fact, many a craze. The protagonist confesses that he is mad about two things, his lady-love and the game of cricket. Cricket is in focus for about half the film, perhaps more, but the only real stroke-makers we see at the wicket are debutant director Riteish Vilasrao Deshmukh himself and a child prodigy (not to mention a few supporting members of the teams), no real cricketers, even in special appearances. It’s a queer mix of cricket match-fixing, man-woman match-making (or fixing) and a politician’s evil designs. The film promises a lot but delivers much less. Yet, from the perspective of Marathi audiences, who enjoyed Deshmukh’s double role in Lai Bhaari (Very Heavy, 2014), it could get ‘selected’, like a cricket player, and be given a viewing.

Spread over 12 years, the story is about a cricketer named Sattya, who is a devastating batsman, but becomes a victim of corruption. He has to bribe his way into the Railways team. Even there, there is no respite, for a local politician, Bhaskar Anna, backs a rival team and thinks nothing of resorting to murder if umpires refuse to play ball. To earn the bribe money, he and his pal Ganesh work as helping hands at an engagement ceremony. While fixing electrical wires and bulbs, Satya notices a girl who is actively involved in the arrangements. He falls head over heels in love with her, and, as luck would have it, she trips on a wire, and is rescued by Satya’s arms, in a classic RK Films logo pose. Their eyes meet for a while, then she quips, “Now let me go. Or are you planning to take me home?” That is exactly what he would like, but he comes from a lower middle class family (his father is a ticket checker in the railways) while she belongs to a richie rich house. Her name is Nisha.

Nisha’s father Murali is dead against his daughter getting married to Sattya, and marries her off to another, rich suitor. Heartbroken, Sattya hits the bottle and puffs away to glory. Under these circumstances, another woman come into his life: Shrawani. Unbeknownst to him, she, his school-mate, has been in love with him ever since he hit a ball into her glass window. Even as the glass shattered, he made a place in her heart. Nothing but a waster now, Sattya and his father Dinkarrao are greatly surprised when she decides to marry him, and is willing to die, if her parents refuse to approach Sattya with the proposal. The marriage takes place, but it remains a marriage only in name. Sattya is unable to forget Nisha and give up his liquor addiction. Shrawani puts up with all this and more, without so much as a whimper. Sometime later, Sattya gets an assignment to coach an under 14-years girls’ cricket team, and he comes face to face with wonder-kid Khushi, who can clobber any bowler all over the park. She kindles the spark of life within Sattya, who was, till then, merely existing, not living.

Story by Shiva Nirvana (probably refers to the Telugu original; this one is a remake) has been adapted for the screen by Rushikesh Turai, Sandeep S. Patil, and Riteish Deshmukh. The subject tries to ride two boats at the same time: cricket and love, but succeeds only partially. Cricket is India’s national obsession, but the level of cricket shown in the film is way down, not exciting enough to evince keen interest. On the love front, the protagonist is a rank loser, ending up a drunkard and good-for-nothing chap. These factors do not generate positive vibes. Moreover, the legislator is delineated as a complete stereo-type, potentially very powerful, but practically unable to assert himself in his fiefdom. Two major fights find place in the narrative, both between Bhaskar Anna’s goons and Sattya. How a normal looking Satyya beats them to pulp is a secret only the fight composer and Riteish Deshmukh know.

Khushi, who is vying for a place in the under 14 team, looks nothing more than 8-9 years old. She should have been trying for the under 12 team, instead. And why is a man preferred to coach a girls’ team? Aren’t there enough women cricketers around? Women’s cricket is slightly different from men’s. Several scenes seem to have been written with the specific intention of getting the participants in the scene to mouth either claptrap or verbose dialogue, punctuated with dual word-play on rearranged premises of speech. An example of a god scene that loses its charm due to repetition is the ‘finding’ of large sums of money in Sattya’s clothes by Shrawani. An excellent piece of writing that suffers due to multiple repetition. Nothing more than twice was required.

Wonder what prompted Riteish Vilasrao Deshmukh to choose a subject for his directorial debut that requires the actor in him to look ‘twelve years younger’ (as a caption card says) in the story (actually much more, if you consider his real age of 44 years), and spend a lot of screen-time just drinking and smoking. There is very little that is likeable about this character. Yes, he does restore the electric supply to the neighbourhood when a wire trips, earning admiration. There are a few deft directorial touches, like the bold whisper into his ear by Nisha, “I want to make love to you,” the way Shrawani is introduced, emerging from under an umbrella, unlike the hair being tossed from behind the shoulder to in front of it, with a turn of the head to face the camera, as is the beaten-to-death norm, and the way in which Shrawani steadfastly stands by him when he is the butt of all rebukes. Deshmukh also manages to get an appealing performance from the young girl, and never mind if she is as precocious as they come.

Another good scene, with a twist, is the one wherein he goes to a chemist’s shop to buy a condom. Till the point where he is finally able to tell the chemist what he wants, the scene seems to be pedestrian, and then comes a twist that makes it really funny. Since the protagonist’s family lives off the Mumbai coast, we see some eye-pleasing aerial shots of ferry boats, Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal hotel. Bringing in Salman Khan to do the customary item number, sans 200 semi-clad girls gyrating, as is the norm, was a good move. But relegating it to the end credit titles deprives his fans from enjoying him perform a Marathi song, maybe his first. Many would have left the auditorium by the time the song comes on. A couple of shot seem to go nowhere. These include the shots at the sea-shore, with a man (has to be Sattya) lying in the water and a motor-cycle coming up, with a pillion rider.

Although he is in Devdas mode for most of the time, at least in the second half, Riteish Vilasrao Deshmukh, as Sattya, springs a surprise. This performance is a far cry from the zany comedies he has done in Hindustani, like Heyy Babyy, Dhamaal, House Full. Double Dhamaal and Housefull 2. There is a base tone in his voice and the dialogues are spoken with deliberation, rather than spurted out. For the greater part, his acting is realistic, but we have to discount those two run-ins where the action is one-sided. Jia Shankar, actress known for her work in television and in two films down south, makes her Hindustani film debut. It’s a vivacious, sexy, bubbly debut, as she leads the affair with Sattya, who, of course, is besotted with her. She expresses her desire to have sex with Sattya and rescues him from a deadly end when goons sent by her father and Bhaskar Anna set upon him. One feels that the director drew some inspiration from the character of the heroine in Bobby (1973). Ashok Saraf, all of 75 now, is cast as Sattya’s father, Dinkarrao. There is a slightly comic streak in his persona, but most of the laughs he gets are on witty dialogue, not crude, double entendre jokes that he had to enact in Marathi and Hindi films. Raviraj Kande plays the politician Bhaskar Anna like any other actor would. Yes, he looks the part.

Ved is the Marathi debut of Genelia Deshmukh, and it is a good debut. She has a meaty role and delivers long lines of dialogue well. While there is little to admire in Sattya except his cricket, Genelia’s character, Shrawani has everything going for it. If anything, it is too good to be true. But she exhibits a Ved of a different kind, just as Sattya and Nisha showed Ved in their approach to life. Good support comes from Vidyadhar Joshi as Murali, Shubhankar Tawde as Jonty (probably named after the iconic South African cricketer, known for his athletic fielding), Vinnet Sharma as Kumar and Vikram Gaikwad as the Coach. The pick of the lot, however, is young Khushi Hajare, playing Khushi. She delivers what the doctor…director ordered, and more, and carves a niche for herself in our hearts. It is not a debut. On the contrary, she is a veteran of a dozen outings in front of the camera, and the confidence is palpable.

Cinematography by Bhushankumar Jain is good but could be better. Editing by Chandan Arora fails to give the film a much required pace and lets it linger for all of 148 minutes. These include five songs, composed by Ajay-Atul, who have also written four of the songs. The songs are well –written and creatively composed, enough to be hummed outside the auditorium.

Ved is not a film that can trigger a craze, but there will be a substantial number who will enjoy this on screen craze phase of Riteish, Genelia, Jia and Khushi.

Rating: ** ½


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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