If it is an Anurag Kashyap film, expect something eerie, intelligent and edge-of-the-seat tinted with some doses of love and longing. And if he chooses Taapsee Pannu to play the lead, you bet, she will break it to the hilt. The combo, therefore, makes the viewer believe in a story that doesn’t belong to us, yet seducing charming and inviting.
'Dobaaraa (meaning again/revisit) 2.12' is of course a rehash of the Spanish film 'Mirage' directed by Oriol Paulo but Indianised cautiously, avoiding theatrical dramatisation of gestures, body language and dialogues that most Hindi films are known for.
So, it is about a Parallel Universe – two lives with a gap of 25 years (the early 90s and 2022). Antara Awasthi/Vasishsth (Taapsee Pannu) is living at the same time – oscillating between two time zones and characters who are part of her life in both universes. Her husband is played by Rahul Bhat and a boy called Anay.
Confusing? Yes. It feels so, but Kashyap is a smart storyteller. He doesn’t give you any time to think if you are getting disordered between the incidents happening while Antara rushes into them; back and forth like she is a puppet whose strings are controlled by the two periods. The audience plays to the gallery alongside, or else they would miss the link needed to understand what’s going on the screen!
A murder mystery, it is about a woman, nurse by profession and mother of a 6-year-old who saves the life of a-12-year-old Anay on a stormy, thunderous rainy night. Anay bears witness to a murder in their neighbourhood 25 years ago. She connects to him via an old television set and is thus transported to a parallel universe, separated by 25 years. But a questioning mind, a super sharp observer and an intelligent woman like Antara won’t take it lying down. She will try every possibility to handle it and solve it, by searching for a beginning, a middle and an end.
In a screenplay penned by Nihit Bhave, the editor Aarti Bajaj has used her sharp scissors mercilessly, snipping loose ends. Till the interval, the audiences are still trying to what’s next and why. This is what an intelligent director does to you. He gives you a joy ride but in a merry-go-round where you enjoy the ride but are scared of losing yourself to it. His heroine Taapsee has made sure that she can carry the whole film on her shoulder. So for me, a star is born.
I remember in an interview she told me recently that she doesn’t rehearse twice. It exhausts her. She is a one-take actor. And that shows! Her engagement to the role is real, so real that you believe in her and her story. Her spontaneity and timings are near perfect. Her co-actors Rahul Bhat and Pavail Gulati are a good match for her spontaneous acts. They are a refreshing change from the oft-repeated faces we see in our films. Anay, as a 30-year-old man besotted with much elder Antara, in a moment of confession and about to lose her with those tears in his eyes, is a memorable frame of the film. Saswata Chatterjee is a known actor in Bengali films. As Raja Ghosh, he draws attention and disdain for his typical Bengali looks – a middle-aged man who dyes his hair black to look young, you can find at every home in Kolkata. One may feel Kashyap should have chosen a Bollywood-styled man, more handsome with great looks for audiences to feel sympathised with him. But Kashyap is great at symbolism. He tells you, looks don’t matter. How they treat you, does!
Shuttling from home to a hospital to a hotel room to murder space – the film doesn’t let you enjoy the locations. It seems except for the murder space and tv room, every location in the film is incidental. Music and songs by Shor Police and Gaurav Chatterjee seem to have no scope in the film, but the sound design has. And it is enormously immersive. Cinematography by Sylvester Fonseca keeps it tight, tricky and fetching.
No world is free of emotions – this or that. So 'Dobaaraa' has Kashyap’s favourite personal message – leave the spouse, the partner, the beloved or anyone else if you have to drag on with them. Move on. Life gives you new opportunities. Hail them for your good.
The film’s negative is a couple of wobbly ends. Some cause and effect links are missing, for instance, Taapsee’s marriage to her husband who is a security head of a hotel, how did it happen. But you would think about it as you go home – trying to adjust to the film as famous poet Coleridge said, “Willing suspension of disbelief”.
'Dobaaraa' is an edge-of-the-seat, brainy remake, worth watching once. Youth who play mind games on video would like it. For seniors, it would be a change from a typical mushy romance or a family values-driven flicks they have grown on.