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'Peddlers' marks a remarkable debut


SAIBAL CHATTERJEE | Cannes, May 22, 2012 12:06
Tags : Vasan Bala | Cannes | Cannes Film Festival | Peddlers |

Peddlers marks a remarkable debutDebutant Vasan Bala’s Mumbai-set thriller Peddlers, a robust, well-crafted film that trawls the murky entrails of the city’s underworld, premiered at the 65th Cannes Film Festival on Monday.

The film was screened in the Critics Week and is eligible for the Camera d’Or prize for best debut features, besides the awards to be given away in the parallel section,

Peddlers boldly trots off in a new direction and even though it does not quite go the whole distance, it packs enough touches of novelty into its episodic structure to be consistently watchable.

Vasan Bala is clearly a talent to watch. The way he handles the characters, paces the narrative, uses music and creates the dark and disturbing backdrop against which the film plays out reflect the kind of grasp that augurs well.

The deft touches that he brings to the table lift Peddlers well above the level of run-of-the-mill gangster flicks. It isn’t, to begin with, a gangster flick at all.

It’s a character-driven drama that explores the healing power of love (if only momentary), the wages of misguided youthful rebellion and the ultimate consequences of social and moral deviancy.

The lives of three key people, all of them grappling with severe social and emotional issues that they have little control over, intertwine inextricably and culminate in a burst of violence that only deepen the pain and the scars.
Peddlers marks a remarkable debut
We may have seen these characters negotiating the same chaotic moral terrain on a number of occasions in the past, but Vasan Bala’s quirky treatment of the material at his disposal ensures that Peddlers does not turn into another bundle of clichés.

Yes, he does give the urban Mumbai motifs that we are familiar with: the sea, the trains, the unnerving hustle and bustle of its lanes and alleyways. But they are all woven seamlessly into the design of the film.  The city breathes life into the story without overpowering it.

A Narcotics Control Bureau cop, Ranjit D’Souza (Gulshan Devaiah), whose frustrations stem from a physical shortcoming that prevents him from consummating his sexual urges, seeks to tide over his inadequacy by keeping up the pretence of being a womanizer.

He has an affair with a married neighbour, Kuljeet Kaur Sehgal (Nimrat Kaur), but it is doomed to failure, pushing him further over the edge.

Ranjit is on the trail of a 20-year-old Mandar Anaskar (Siddharth Menon), an upper middle class boy who has turned his back on the comfort of his life and, in an ill-advised statement of defiance, plunged headlong into the world of drug dealers.

The young boy falls for a terminally ill Bangladeshi migrant, Bilkis Bano (Kriti Malhotra), who works for the drug pushers in order to raise money for her treatment and her five-year-old son back home.

Bilkis’ days are numbered but she lives in hope. Mandar, on his part, reasons that it is all right for him to throw his lot in with the woman because she has two to three years to live and he has his entire life ahead of him.

Peddlers makes no grand statement about life and death but has just enough steam to propel itself forward, making its downbeat characters come alive even though they are obviously headed nowhere.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017