SOCH LO. Director: Sartaj Singh Pannu. Players: Barkha Madan, Sartaj Singh Pannu, Iris maity, Nishan Nanaiah. Theatrical Release: Golden Gate Creations
Devoid of any memory of his past and his identity, a bloody and battered man regains consciousness to find himself in a desert in Rajasthan and seeks the help of a trio to salvage his sense of self.
Soch Lo is the first release of Golden Gate Creations, an independent production company co-founded by Barkha Madan, the female lead in the movie. The company aims to carve a niche for itself by veering away from Bollywood and attempting a new genre in films. Soch Lo, which marks Pannu’s directorial debut, is shot in the deserts of Rajasthan and in Ganpathi Phule in Maharashtra.
The story begins when the life of the protagonist, Baba (Pannu), is threatened; glimpses of his life flash before
him—enough to give him clues which he pieces together to find himself.
The subject of the movie is an expansion of the idea that relationships come with a past. The past that the movie seeks to explore is that of Riva (Maity), a reluctant young bride, whose past refuses to stay behind. The baggage that she brings to her honeymoon is in the form of an ex-boyfriend (Nanaiah), who, enraged by her arranged marriage to a soldier, takes measures to cut her honeymoon short.
Pannu, as Riva’s husband, Baba, plays the hardy hero who can take a bashing and knifing and still have enough lives and the tenacity to pursue his wife, who has gone missing from their honeymoon.
Madan slips into the skin of Pali, a fast-talking New Yorker, who helps Baba in his quest for his wife and his own identity. Madan plays the role with ease and subtly captures the expressions, both facial and idiomatic, peculiar to an American.
As Basu, the psychotic lover of Riva, Nanaiah delivers an energetic performance, with hubris apposite to the role. Director Pannu’s connection with his characters is especially evident in his portrayal of this deranged drug-user, who is raging and threatening one minute, and loving, concerned, and pleading the next.
Maity renders a passive performance, understandable for a bride whose heart is not in her marriage, but even parts which call for an impassioned performance turn out hollow.
Inquiring minds who will want to know how the hero disposed of the bodies of his victims and their vehicles in the sparse desert or how the villain who has nearly passed out after having slits his wrists, regains vigor enough for an energetic fight, will be disappointed. The director would also have done well to keep the reins on the art direction a bit tighter.
The drama indubitably drags during the first half, after the director sets the stage, but piques the interest of the audience, when it becomes a whodunit. Pannu’s usage of humor, in this otherwise serious film, is noteworthy. That the director has the pulse of his characters is also apparent in his handling of the symbiotic relationship between Pali and Baba, who are strangers thrown into each other’s mercy. The tentative friendship that turns into an unspoken fondness is poignant.
The ambiguity of the unconventional ending gives the reader freedom to interpret it on different levels. Why Riva does not make a dash for her dashing husband when he finally finds her whereabouts, having fought tooth and nail, is glaring. Her weak attempt at fighting off her captor and her token protests lead us to believe that Riva’s past is still in her present.
The movie is not without its share of glitches, but Pannu shows promise in characterization and Soch Lo is an inspired first effort.
Riz Merchant writes from the Bay Area