Opening this week

Film review: The understated and compelling ‘Masaan’ finds life and hope in the city of corpses

Directed by Neeraj Ghaywan and written by Varun Grover, this first-time feature has memorable performances and a sensitively observed account of decay and redemption.

Neeraj Ghaywan’s understated and assured Masaan takes its narrative cues from the flow of the Ganga river and the movement of the trains that pass over it. Its characters swirl in eddies of their own making as well as forge forward with determination. The first-time feature filmmaker, working on a minutely observed screenplay by Varun Grover, balances these contradictory currents to create a tender and compelling portrait of young lives on the edge of experiences that are as frightening as they are liberating.

The movie’s themes of entropy, destruction and resurrection are signalled by the title, which means crematorium, and the location. Masaan is set in Varanasi, the ancient seat of spirituality and salvation and depicted here as a repository of old-fashioned values and a cauldron of unfulfilled desires. Two journeys are twinned, one beginning in despair and the other in hope. Devi (Richa Chadha) has an ill-advised tryst with her boyfriend that invites blackmail and harassment from a police officer (Bhagwan Tiwari) and the silent wrath of her father Pathak (Sanjay Mishra). Even as Devi retreats into a catatonic shell, Pathak takes small and large gambles to save his honour with the help of the spirited Jhonta (Nikhil Sahni), a boy who works for him.

Meanwhile, the journey of Deepak (Vicky Kaushal) out of the depths of caste-ordained hell that are the Varanasi cremation grounds, where his Dom family has been raking coals over bodies for centuries, has begun. Not only is Deepak studying for an engineering diploma, but he is also wooing the upper-caste Shaalu (Shweta Tripathi). She loves modern Hindi poetry and literature, which presumably, but not always convincingly, inures her to Deepak’s position at the bottom of the caste hierarchy and permits their romance to blossom. The scenes between Deepak and Shaalu sparkle with innocence and charm and offset the sadness that overtakes Devi and Pathak, neither of whom is equipped to deal with their changed circumstances.

Harsh truths simply told

The 109-minute drama refracts the brutal truths of Indian society – sexual repression, the caste divide, financial hardship, limited mobility – through individual philosophical journeys. The advantage of an ensemble format is that every encounter is judiciously turned over and sent on its way to its rightful conclusion, and there is a satisfying circularity to each of the character’s experiences. But there simply isn’t enough time to scrutinise the ramifications of Devi’s rude brush with the law or the star-crossed Deepak-Shaalu romance.

Ghaywan’s understated observational shooting style does allow individual actors to savour the sharp writing and characterisation. Chadha and Mishra don’t find the right beat with each other, but they discover their rhythms in their individual scenes. Pankaj Tripathi has a delightful role as Devi’s dutiful colleague who seems, like this movie’s overall milieu, from a couple of decades ago. Kaushal’s cautiously ambitious Deepak is the movie’s best-realised character, both in the way it has been written and portrayed.

Ghaywan ties together the various narrative skeins with confidence and sensitivity, but some parts of the screenplay are awkwardly spelt out. The insistence on closure also militates against the larger theme that life springs nasty and unpredictable surprises that do not usually neatly work themselves out.

However, the movie’s emphasis on hope doesn’t blind the filmmakers to the reality of how hard-won this state of mind is. Devi haltingly regains some of her equilibrium, while Deepak, whose flight is interrupted by personal tragedy, doesn’t go as far as he would have liked to. Masaan perfectly catches these souls at the mid-way moment between decay and renewal. It all comes together in the beautiful concluding scene, which suggests that sometimes, redemption can begin at a point that is not too far from one’s doorstep.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Get ready for an 80-hour shopping marathon

Here are some tips that’ll help you take the lead.

Starting 16th July at 4:00pm, Flipkart will be hosting its Big Shopping Days sale over 3 days (till 19th July). This mega online shopping event is just what a sale should be, promising not just the best discounts but also buying options such as no cost EMIs, buyback guarantee and product exchanges. A shopping festival this big, packed with deals that you can’t get yourself to refuse, can get overwhelming. So don’t worry, we’re here to tell you why Big Shopping Days is the only sale you need, with these helpful hints and highlights.

Samsung Galaxy On Nxt (64 GB)

A host of entertainment options, latest security features and a 13 MP rear camera that has mastered light come packed in sleek metal unibody. The sale offers an almost 40% discount on the price. Moreover, there is a buyback guarantee which is part of the deal.

Original price: Rs. 17,900

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Samsung 32 inches HD Ready LED TV

Another blockbuster deal in the sale catalogue is this audio and visual delight. Apart from a discount of 41%, the deal promises no-cost EMIs up to 12 months.

Original price: Rs. 28,890

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Intel Core I3 equipped laptops

These laptops will make a thoughtful college send-off gift or any gift for that matter. Since the festive season is around the corner, you might want to make use of this sale to bring your A-game to family festivities.

Original price: Rs. 25,590

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 21,900


If you’ve been planning a mid-year wardrobe refresh, Flipkart’s got you covered. The Big Shopping Days offer 50% to 80% discount on men’s clothing. You can pick from a host of top brands including Adidas and Wrangler.

With more sale hours, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days sale ensures we can spend more time perusing and purchasing these deals. Apart from the above-mentioned products, you can expect up to 80% discount across categories including mobiles, appliances, electronics, fashion, beauty, home and furniture.

Features like blockbuster deals that are refreshed every 8 hours along with a price crash, rush hour deals from 4-6 PM on the starting day and first-time product discounts makes this a shopping experience that will have you exclaiming “Sale ho to aisi! (warna na ho)”

Set your reminders and mark your calendar, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days starts 16th July, 4 PM and end on 19th July. To participate in 80 hours of shopping madness, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Flipkart and not by the Scroll editorial team.