Gyanpeeth awardee Professor Rehman Rahi is the alpha, beta and gamma of this movie. Here it goes. Self-deprecation about his earlier attempts at poetry while writing for "Pratap" during SP College days reflects the humble genius that poet laureate is. Soliloquy shot is all right but sole of the theme is missing from the plot at so many places. Superfluity in subtitles and spelling mistakes at a few places maybe overlooked but the subtitle writer seems to have been busy with some social media chat to write something for something. The filmmaker could only find two of Rahi's contemporaries Rafiq Raaz and Naseem Shifayee to talk about his biopic. Rafiq Raaz at the very outset declares Rehman Rahi a poet of twentieth century knowingly or unknowingly rendering him irrelevant to the 21st century. Though Rahi Himself asserts in the movie the poet loses his eloquence if he is not relevant in the contemporary times. Naseem Shifayee too at times beats about the bush, having very little to say about the protagonist. Behind the scenes Shafi Shauq the researcher remains obscure. Modesty may very often lead to travesty of the subject proof lies within.
The poet can create music without sound so silence may suit Rahi's stature but where did Rahi come from? It must be poetic too so that leaves us to ask heavens. At the end of the movie I know only as much about Rahi's place of birth as I know about his poetic philosophy. Perhaps Rahi's world is no more beyond his gardens where he is seen to be moving back and forth in repetition of shots. Sorry to say, repetition may heighten the poetic effect but the repetition of shots weakens the visual effect. It may behoove a poet whose jottings of the art are redolent of the divine and can claim, "Aatey hain gaib se yeh mazameen khayal main", but a maker's craft had to make this unknown known to the viewers but he leaves us as much in whirlpool of thoughts as the Gyanpeeth awardee is left with existentialism. Dealing with the eminent poet's transcendental experiences the filmmaker lost the plot of his characters. Alter egos have altered what could otherwise have been a smoother and steadier transition of scenes. In retro there is a half-baked idea of Rahi's childhood, one is tempted to ask, was it needed when the poet of silence has so much to speak about himself.
One does feel at times an honest effort has been made by the filmmaker to portray active lifestyle of the nonagenarian but again that can't be justified in one scene. Baker in, baker out and that is it. There is a place where point of view shot is such that Rehman Rahi suddenly seems Amrish Puri about to have a duel with the hero of the movie. Gaping holes and cracks open, when Rahi moans,"Demonic progeny peoples the valley of demons", suddenly shots of martyrs' graveyard in Srinagar pop up. Again hitches and glitches are in the narration as much as in the picturization.
It may not be an audiovisual treat to your senses but the film has become the mouthpiece of Rehman Rahi-the rebel which nobody saw coming. How often have critics mocked Rahi for being silent about the conflict, rebellion and atrocities to a certain degree Rahi does offer his point of view through this biopic. There is some clarity against the ambiguities of quintessential Rahi alluding to the rejection of dissent during his years as the sub editor of a newspaper. Discussing the fate of some of his verses published in a newspaper which mirrored the wrongs committed by the establishment Rahi mimics the patron of the publication Maulana Masoodi who advised him not to be as loud mouthed against the status-quo. "Aji sahab, yeh pahad hain ye phool hain, inke baarey main likhye, kahan siyasat le bethe aap" (Write about anything but politics). For a change, no holds barred Rahi confesses, "And I obliged".
Credit must go to Bilal Jan for giving expression to the rebellious side of the Jnanipath awardee which many Kashmiris have missed in his poetry
Rahi, hawa ti zaagi chuy josoos aes wath
Walaykumas ni waar ti kath baath ker zi kyah
(Rahi, the air too is spying beware!)
Can't even respond to wishes, let alone dialogue)
Kathi zan aasi ni waar karav kya..
Wyatri ni wenij baar, karo kyah
(Pity the times, when you have to sew your tongue!)
What to do when none has tolerance to hear!)
Impact of Marxist literature on Rahi too is glaring, "Hochi machi kolli faet lookh, wannan kass" (Dried up the streams, they died by drowning) Rahi lays threadbare the persona of his poetry which to him is "Existentialism and the theatre of absurd." Simplifying his complex side of the story of life,Rahi declares, "Life is nothing but dark downpour." Rahi's poetic genius is at its best as he talks of chicory pappus (Handi hol) which he used as a metaphor in a poem and introduced a new word to Kashmiri literature.
His spouse who inspired him to compose, "the din of crows" which won him many admirers is seen in only one shot.How can you overlook a character as significant as the one who by Rahi's own admission titled his magnum opus "Siyah roodi jarren manz (Under the dark downpours)"for which Prof.Rehman Rahi got gyanpeeth in 2006 and he dedicated the award to his wife.
Kashmiri music without Rahi and Rahi without Kashmiri music is 'silence' but the one which deadens.We know the title of the film all along but why silence the musical symphony that Radio Kashmir could have provided after all Rahi owes his success to the same institution of broadcasting.To many of us,his pathos,his torment,his yearning is as much depicted through Raj Begum's and Vijay Kumar Malla's renditions as through Jagjit Singh's rendition of Ghalib. Conceiving some shots of a radio of yore and a transistor to symbolize an artistic journey as eventful as Rahi's is bereft of sensibility that one needs to have while dealing with the subject of such nature. Even some rare scenes where such effort was made is dull and drab. That crescendo which classifies Rahi in a league of his own is missing.
The movie though climaxes with a promise that we have not had enough of Rahi, there is much more to come. His upcoming edition dancing with the whirlpool, a conflict with those realities which leave him with a whirlpool what Rehman Rahi fluently terms "poetry is an expression itself, a poet while composing lyrics sets forth to fathom reality,and in an attempt to know the existence he comes to know,he knows nothing." He leaves for a bon voyage of existence over a note on it, "Existence is such a complicated issue that it is beyond me to know it".
Eloquence and erudition personified Rehman Rahi,lyrics opening up to master lyricist, music of silence, poetic tribute but singers too choked by silence.