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Darbaan review: Moving film based on Tagore’s tale of guilt

Release Date: 04 Dec 2020


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Keyur Seta

Director Bipin Nadkarni, who is known for his Marathi movie Uttarayan (2004), is firmly in control in his first Hindi venture.

Rabindranath Tagore, Asia's first Nobel laureate in literature, has left behind a vast corpus of stories on myriad subjects. So, it is surprising that his tales have been rarely adapted in Hindi cinema.

Director Bipin Nadkarni’s Darbaan, based on Tagore's short story Samapti, explores how the emotion of guilt can make one do things that appear unfathomable to others.

Darbaan starts off in the early 1970s in Dhanbad, then in Bihar, and revolves around Raicharan (Sharib Hashmi) aka Raichu who works as one of the house staff in the wealthy mansion of Naren Tripathi (Harsh Chhaya), who owns a coal business.

The family considers Raichu one of its own because of the deep bond he has shared with it since his childhood, especially with Naren’s little son Anukool. In fact, Raichu and Anukool are more like siblings. 

Sharib Hashmi

But this relationship hits the skids when the government of India nationalizes the coal industry. This forces Naren to sell his mansion and migrate to a far land with family, leaving both Raichand and Anukool feeling dejected.

Years later, Anukool (Sharad Kelkar) visits Raichand out of the blue. He has grown up and has a little son of his own now. History repeats itself for Raicharan as he re-joins the family and this time starts looking after Anukool’s son, just as he used to look after Anukool.

One day, when Raicharan takes the little one for a walk, the latter vanishes. Raicharan is devastated. The family accuses him of stealing their son because he himself is childless.

The makers should be appreciated for choosing this particular story because such tales hardly find a place in modern Hindi cinema. The screenplay narrates Tagore’s moving tale like a smooth-flowing river. You get sucked into the world of Raicharan, which is full of innocence, something we hardly see in today's times of raw crime sagas on the web.

The writers have made quite a few changes to the original story but they appear natural. The screenplay is a great example of how a story can be narrated at quick pace. Despite the many turns in the tale, Darbaan’s runtime is just under 90 minutes. The writers have refrained from adding unnecessary scenes to stretch the film to normal feature length, preferring to treat a short story like a short story. 

Sharad Kelkar

Darbaan is the Hindi film debut of Nadkarni, known for the emotional Marathi drama Uttarayan (2004). His hold over the proceedings is felt constantly.

Raicharan’s character is the heart and soul of the film and it required someone who could bring every scene to life. Hashmi proves to be the right man for the job. He excels in portraying various emotions and keeping the innocence alive, even when his character ages.

Kelkar is reliable as always. Yash Mistry, the adolescent actor seen in popular television shows, is a natural in his Hindi film debut. Other artistes like Rasika Dugal, Flora Saini and Chhaya provide valuable support.

Tagore’s original story ends on a heartrending note. Darbaan’s story ends a bit before that. As a result, it appears abrupt since it leaves an important question unanswered. However, the twist on which the film ends is hard-hitting, particularly for those who may not have read the original.

The film is not blemishless, however. There are a few issues, though they are relatively minor. For instance, one is left wondering how the humble manservant Raicharan manages to provide for the lavish lifestyle that is enjoyed by a loved one. However, these issues do not detract from the film, which has a lot going for it and, most importantly, has its heart in the right place.

Darbaan is being streamed on Zee5.

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