Producer-distributor Shiladitya Bora’s directorial debut is good with the small details. But it’s the big picture that’s unsatisfactory.
Ab Toh Sab Bhagwan Bharose is a parable about social harmony seen through the eyes of a curious young boy. Bhola (Satendra Soni) lives in a village in north India. His father is away in the city on work; his mother (Masumeh Makhija) and grandfather (Vinay Pathak) indulge his passion for kite-flying.
Together with his friend Shambhu (Sparsh Suman), Bhola spends more time outside the classroom than in it. On the occasion that Bhola does go to school, he is shocked to learn about what actually causes an eclipse.
There are bigger questions that will soon confront Bhola and the adults around him. The year is 1989. The cataclysmic event that changed India forever is catching up with this overly religious rural outpost.
The screenplay, by Sudhakar Nilmani Eklavya and Mohit Chauhan, does a fine job of reflecting the modest pleasures that mark Bhola’s world. The leisurely paced movie reveals that Bhola’s village, while pretty, is also backward in more ways than one.
Bhola’s initial education is imparted by a priest doubling up as a teacher, who is as disinterested in pedagogy as Bhola is fascinated by kites. There is little room for outsiders and a tendency to delegate decisions to the Almighty – a situation that builds up to an event that opens Bhola’s eyes.
The movie is far too timid in exploring its real intention. As we pussyfoot towards Bhola’s reckoning, Bora leaves us with a few sharp observations about village life and at least one memorable performance. Satendra Soni is outstanding as the precocious boy who loses his innocence in the worst possible way.