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Niwaas review: Slow, meandering tale about coming to terms with death is too complicated for its own good

Release Date: 2022 / 01hr 26min

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Suyog Zore

Mehul Agaja's choice to turn a simple story into an overly complicated existential drama ends up diluting the film's overall impact.

First-time filmmaker Mehul Agaja’s Niwaas deals with coming to terms with death, and life after the loss of a loved one. It's a simple story about two best friends, Saibu (Prabhakar Ambone) and Ram Rao (Sayaji Shinde).

The old buddies, who are neglected by their respective families, spend most of their days wandering around their village under the influence of alcohol. On one such occasion, Ram Rao disappears, only to return after a few days. But when he realizes that except for his friend, his disappearance didn't affect his family members, he starts questioning his own worth. But soon, another tragedy strikes, which sets him on a journey where he learns about the acceptance of death and loss — as well as life and love.

Niwaas has a very straightforward plot but the writer and director's choice to make it an overly complicated existential drama with some abrupt flash-forwards and the deliberate stiff performances end up diluting its overall impact.

The very first scene leaves you perplexed and wondering about what's going on. There is hardly any dialogue in the first 10 minutes. Only later do things start to make sense. I'm not against this style of filmmaking, but it doesn't exactly suit this particular type of story.

Even the subplot about family doesn't have the desired impact, because we hardly know these people. The interactions between the two friends, although they have some tender moments, somehow fail to make the desired impact. The film tries to show a strong bond between the companions — and succeeds to some extent — but a lot more could be done to add depth to their characters.

But there’s something about the film that leaves the viewer confused. In the beginning, you wonder what it is trying to convey, and towards the climax, its pretentiousness becomes evident.

The film makes a sudden tonal shift halfway through and frankly, I liked the second half more despite the director's efforts to turn even the simplest of exchanges between two characters into an overly complicated discussion because things slowly start to make some sense by then and you finally start to get the idea about where the story is heading. 

Shinde does his best to make us sympathize with his Ram Rao. He brings out the innocence as well as the simpleness of his character without turning him into a buffoon. Ambone is also impressive, but the film doesn't give him much scope to shine. The rest of the cast only appear for one or two scenes and don't have much to do. 

The film has a couple of intriguing ideas but leaves you with the feeling that maybe if the director had chosen a simpler approach, it would have been far more impactful. 

Niwaas was screened at the 12th Yashwant Film Festival on 25 March and the 20th Pune International Film Festival, which was held from 18 to 25 March.


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Movie Review Pune International Film Festival