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With: Roshan Seth, Soni Razdan, Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Ranjit Chowdhry, Sam Dastor, Kurush Deboo, Pearl Padamsee, Vrajesh Hirjee, Shazneed Damania, Kurush Dastur, Noshirwan Jehangir, Dinyar Contractor, Souad Faress, Shivani Jha
Written by: Sooni Taraporevala, based on a novel by Rohinton Mistry
Directed by: Sturla Gunnarsson
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 113
Date: 09/13/1998
IMDB

Such a Long Journey (1998)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

In Old Bombay

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like the recent Beautiful People, Such a Long Journey tells an epic story in a small setting. It has a definite feel of place (even though all the characters speak English). It's made up of smaller stories so that the moment is the only thing that's important. (It's part of the Shooting Gallery series.)

It seems like most of the movies from India that I've seen lately are about a father trying to keep his kids from following modernized beliefs. Last year Om Puri played the father in My Son the Fanatic and also stars in the current East Is East. Here he plays a small role and Roshan Seth (My Beautiful Laundrette) takes the lead.

That storyline turns out to be only one of many slice-of-life subplots in this enjoyable, lightweight movie. Seth plays the father, Gustad, who lives with his family in an apartment complex with a cross-section of other characters: Gustad's daughter (Shazneen Damania), who wins a doll (a blonde, light-skinned one) in a contest, and later catches malaria; Gustad's wife (Soni Razdan), who attempts to cast a spell to bring their son (Vrajesh Hirjee) back to his senses; and a pavement artist (Ranjit Chowdhry), who Gustad hires to draw religious pictures on the wall outside his building to keep people from urinating and defecating on it.

But the main theme of the movie is the political unrest in 1971 Bombay, as Gustad's old friend Jimmy (Naseeruddin Shah), who is now a member of the Special Forces, asks him for a dangerous favor.

Director Sturla Gunnarsson keeps things going at a straightforward pace and easy distance so that we become involved in the day to day life of these characters without being too close or too far away. There's no obvious subjection to morals or speeches. Gunnarsson makes you feel like a guest in Gustad's home.

The story-line that works best here is that of the wall artist. Early in the film a notice from the government of Bombay is found posted on the wall. It says that they'll need to tear the wall down to widen the road. So, the act of painting religious symbols on the wall becomes twofold; to keep people from relieving themselves on it, and to keep people from tearing it down. As the artist draws from one end of the wall to the other worshippers begin to appear leaving offerings to the wall. The final panel of the wall is of the wall itself with smaller representations of the other drawings, on and on into infinity. Sadly, the wall gets torn down anyway. The artist, always ready with a sound bite, tells us that it's the circle of life. The wall goes from latrine, to holy ground, to nothing. It is the metaphor for the movie, and for life. It's a simple one, but Such a Long Journey is a simple movie.

I admire movies like this that allow us to connect with people all over the world. They show us that there are things out there that make us alike after all, even the small things.

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