Ab Toh Sab Bhagwan Bharose
Director: Shiladitya Bora
Writers: Sudhakar Nilmani (Eklavya), Mohit Chauhan aka Farar
Cast: Vinay Pathak, Masumeh Makhija, Satendra Soni, Sparsh Suman, Sawan Tank, Shrikant Verma, Manu Rishi Chaddha
“Sheher mein sab kaam sarkar bharose hota hai aur gaon mein sab kaam Bhagwan bharose hota hai,” says Vinay Pathak who plays Nanababu in the film. Village life is tough but it is all about simplicity. The good and the bad that happen or could happen are left for the Gods to decide.
Producer turned director Shiladiya Bora’s debut feature Ab Toh Sab Bhagwan Bharose is set in 1989 in a village somewhere in north India. Two young boys Bhola (Satendra Soni) and Shambhu (Sparsh Suman) are best friends. They have little interest in studies but are loaded with curiosity. Panditji (Shrikant Verma) is their teacher who tells them stories from the Puranas, Vedas, and other scriptures.
Bhola and Shambhu take these stories as facts and finally, when they attend a school, they think their schoolteachers are teaching absolute rubbish. This slowly starts developing as religious fanatism at such a young age.
But how all of this is set up? Quite simply with trademark indie scene design, dialogue, and cinematography. It all starts when Bhola’s father (Sawan Tank) brings home a television set from Mumbai. As it used to happen back in those days, their neighbours from the village gather every Sunday at 9 am to watch Mahabharat on DD National.
The boys take to the magic of TV like fish to water. They start obsessing over it. But much to their dismay constant power cuts halt their joy of watching TV. Satendra Soni and Sparsh Suman are perfectly cast in their roles as Bhola and Shambhu. Vinay Pathak as Bhola’s grandfather and Manu Rishi Chaddha as the only atheist in the village are convincing in their roles. Masumeh Makhija, returning to the big screen after a while springs a surprise with her sincere performance as Bhola’s mother.
All the characters are going about their lives without really realizing where it might lead. As a viewer too, I felt at some point in time, where is it all headed? Because there’s no big plot, you keep guessing. And that somewhat makes you a spectator from a distance than engage with the characters.
The screenplay is peppered with some quirky one-liners. The characters are relatable. There are the old prejudiced men and women who tell kids that demons live in the village across the river. They mean Muslims. But Manu Rishi Chaddha’s character points out that there is someone in that village too who says the same about people on this side of the river.
To the maker’s credit, I didn’t expect a sudden extreme outrage of fanatism in the climax but it looks convincing considering the journey the characters have had by then in the film. But it could have been a more poignant drama if it wanted to address the dangers of religious fanatism that gets imbibed into children’s minds at a young age.