‘Darbaan’ movie review: A heartwarming tale that doesn’t scratch beyond the surface

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Bipin Nadkarni’s film is a simplistic take on servitude that feels out of place beyond Sharib Hashmi’s classy performance

Darbaan is based on Rabindranath Tagore’s popular story of a loyal servant who does the unthinkable act of sacrificing his son in order to keep his master’s family happy.

Marathi filmmaker Bipin Nadkarni, who debuts in Hindi with Darbaan, adapts the story and adds his own narrative bits. The story begins in 1971 and is set in the backdrop of the then-Indira Gandhi-led government’s decision to nationalise coal mines.

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Naren Tripathi (Harsh Chhaya) and family live in a palatial house, and for Tripathi, his go-to man servant is Raicharan (Sharib). Raicharan arrived at the Tripathi’s as an infant and grew up taking care of Naren’s child, Anukul (Sharad Kelkar), forming a deep bond with the latter. After the nationalisation process leaves the Tripathis out of business, they pack up and depart, leaving Raicharan without a master, who then goes onto live a monotonous life in his village with his wife Bhuri (Rasika Dugal). When an all grown-up Anukul comes back and asks Raicharan to return to take care of his son, he doesn’t hesitate. But Raicharan loses the child one day, and who is feared dead. Accusations fly and Raicharan is forced to leave. A few years after, Raicharan becomes a parent and he brings up his own child as though he was serving his master’s son. Eventually, consumed by guilt, he gives up his son to fill the void in his master’s family.

While the narrative offers us a dewy-eyed tale — the slow-paced screenplay aids that effort — the story remains under explored. An adapted screenplay but one which takes into account the evolved times could have served Darbaan better, besides its endearing soundtrack.

There is no convincing explanation or desire shown by the filmmaker to explore understated facts from the script — why does Raicharan feel this compelling desire to eternally remain in servitude of a family?

Flora Saini’s character as Anukul’s wife is criminally underwritten and she has no scope besides a few dialogues about a mother’s instinct. Sharad Kelkar walks around as a figure of poise but has little to contribute to the emotional quotient of the film.

The star, undeniably, is Sharib Hashmi, who puts forth a performance worthy of note. The little transitions in his character as Raicharan ages sums up a convincing display by the actor. However, beyond his classy performance, Darbaan seems like a script better suited to the stage than the canvas of a cinema.

‘Darbaan’ is streaming on ZEE5

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