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Starring
Shabana Azmi
as Swarnlatha

Prakash Rao
as Abhinay

Lillete Dubey
as Mrs. Kapoor

Perizaad Zorabian
as Pinkie

Shaleen Sharma
as Balaji

Vivek Mashru
as Munna

Naser
as Abhinay's father

Vijay
as Mr. Shastri

Written and Directed by Mahesh Dattani

Running Time: 1:40

Rated Not Rated

C


THE OPENING

Morning Raga was a movie that tried really hard, but had too many flaws to be really good.

THE STORY

Swarnlatha is a singer of Carnatic music who dreams of one day leaving her village and playing in the big city. When she finally gets her chance, tragedy strikes as her bus is hit by a drunk driver, and she loses her best friend and her son. 20 years later we meet her best friend's son, Abhinay, who also dreams of becoming a musician. By chance he almost gets run over by Pinkie who has her own demons to exorcise. The two decide to join up and put together a fusion band. But Abhinay firmly believes the only way they can be successful, is to have Swarnlatha join them. She is willing to sing, but unwilling to make the trip to the big city to perform. Ever since the accident, which took place on a bridge, she can't bring herself to cross the water. Abhinay and Pinkie try everything they can to get Swarnlatha to cross that bridge and finally get her chance to perform in the city. But will they succeed?

THE REVIEW

As I said, Morning Raga tried really hard to be an emotional, moving film filled with music and life, but it came up a little short. Unlike traditional Bollywood films, Morning Raga didn't have extended song and dance sequences, and didn't run for almost three hours. There was music, obviously, but it was used as a story line and not just for show. First of all, the singing isn't the kind of thing I enjoy, so if you enjoy Carnatic music, this movie may be more to your liking. I enjoyed the music that the band played, but the singing threw me off. The performances from all the actors were mediocre, although Shabana Azmi as Swarnlatha was better than the rest. Everyone else, especially Prakash Rao as Abhinay seemed stuck in one mode. When he tried to be angry, it was like a child throwing a low grade temper tantrum. When he was supposed to be drunk, he was awful. And when he tried to be emotional (it's all about the music, man) he also came across like a child throwing a low grade temper tantrum. I never got any sense from him that he cared about anything. The words that came out of this mouth may have been the right ones, but the emotions around them were lacking.

I can't say for certain that all of the dialogue was dubbed, but a large majority of it seemed to be, and that was distracting. Back in the old days I know a lot of Bollywood films worked that way, with the songs and dialogue all dubbed in later, but these days there's no need for that, unless the entire sound production went to hell during filming, so it gave the movie a cheaper feel. The story line, especially Swarnlatha's was touching, but Abhinay and his band didn't. I never got any impression that this guy really wanted to be a musician, other than him having a keyboard and a computer. He went from being a jingle composer to wanting to be a 'real' musician, who also seemed to be very full of himself, thinking he was really great, and even saying so to anyone who listened. Then there was a whole story with his father that was never explained. It felt like it was thrown in there to make some kind of point. And then the 'twist' with Pinkie and her deceased father also felt contrived. In a three hour Bollywood film you can throw in a dozen stories because you have more than enough time to discuss them. In a 100 minute film, you need to keep it streamlined, and focus on the important things. And then really get into the important things.

THE BOTTOM LINE

So overall, Morning Raga was a so-so film that had good intentions, but in the end, didn't deliver. A stronger story and better production values would have helped.

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© 2005 Wolfpack Productions

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