Saanghuro must be applauded for its mere effort in bringing an original and homegrown story. Every frame of the movie sits lazily to dictate a strong social criticism – which overpowers the entire tone of the film. Hands down, the treatment is very ambitious and experimental; however it remains more honest to social realism than to the craft of storytelling. It draws a very Hanekesque way of unfolding events, but the over-detailed scenes and seamlessly sluggish pace of the movie, derails it from the neo-realistic turf. Saanghuro demands too much attention and patience from the audience.
Every morning, Krishna (Shushank Mainali) bends his wobbly bicycle inside the nooks and crannies of Kathmandu and tosses folded newspapers to his news-hungry subscribers. Krishna, despite being a paperboy, rarely keeps up with the news. His wages are minimum and as he has got no afternoon job, he utilizes most of that time shuffling cards and eyeing on a potential lover Kamala (Deeya Maskey), who happens to be a domestic helper in one of the house where he delivers newspaper. Alienated from his father, Krishna stays conjointly with his mother (Aruna Karki). She has recently secured a municipal work as a road sweeper and in her free time does odd jobs for other people. Her quirky fondness for Coca-Cola and reprimanding motherhood, makes her an engaging character.
The film is set in a very bleak slum community, where squatters have put up makeshift houses to accommodate them a second-rate shelter. Krishna and his mother live in one of those temporary shelters with cardboard walls and a roof that constantly leaks. Everything seems steadily adequate for the family, until Krishna woos Kamala into marrying him. The heaping financial constraints along with their cramped residence result in forcing the newlyweds to share their privacy with Krishna’s mother.
This whole design of injecting sex psychology in the premise seems weirdly interesting; unfortunately the story loses control as it meanders too aimlessly with Krishna’s impoverishments to come up with a been-there-done-that conclusion. The movie never picks the available rich materials in fleshing Krishna’s later actions. Director, Joes Pandey moves these portions to an expectable degree when he burdens a satirical slant to Krishna’s financial predicaments. It was substantial enough to show Krishna’s self-pity and leave everything very open- ended. Muddling actions to get back to the same starting point seems very unpleasant, even for a film like Saanghuro, which leaves very little space to reflect anything. Again I would say, a very well-intended plot which majorly lacks clarity.
Shushank Mainali has empathy written all over his face. He plays the part of Krishna almost effortlessly; in fact his performance appears impressively autobiographical at times. Krishna clearly is the focal point of the movie and Mainali never disappoints. Deeya Maskey has a charming presence and gets enough liberty to dig into the role of the cheerful new bride. In Kamala we see a complex mix of impulsive happiness and a suppressed agitation over her husband’s feeble resources. Daya Hang Rai is in usual form as the small time politician and Krishna’s friend-in-need. A special mention here to Aruna Karki who authentically adjusts to her character, making it more organic and unpretentious. This is a well acted film and all the actors live their roles except Rabi Giri, who’s over the top as always – even his fake wig looks more poised than him.
Pandey has well orchestrated his cast and crew in making the settings and characters very believable but he does that with excruciating detailing. He sets his frames in capturing excessive comings and goings instead of tightly confining us to the story. He’s got a shrewd observational eye which is admirable but being carried away and abusing this gift has become equally harmful for his debut feature. The film dares to portray a contemporary reality and bases characters that are relatable. Saanghuro, regardless of its flaws, leaps forward as a spacious experiment that will benefit Nepali filmmakers and film-goers to have faith in organic and local narratives.