To weave a story involving three protagonists within 87 minutes, each following his or her own track that occasionally intersects other tracks, it is necessary to economize in a manner that does justice to all the characters, in terms of screen time – without prioritizing one over the other. That’s a tall order, because each character has a personal trajectory which involves subplots and secondary characters, making the film run the risk of being overwhelmed by its own combined load. But director Ravi Davala, who is also credited with the writing, manages to strike the right balance and flits in and out of the different tracks seamlessly, like in a symphony where different instruments that play different themes are held together by a grand, overarching design.
Three friends lose their jobs one fine day because of recession and are compelled to look for alternatives. While Arjun (Arjun Radhakrishnan) is bogged down by loans and is constantly threatened by recovery agents, Ila (Nrupa Soman), still reeling under the loss, fights a desperate custody battle with her ex-husband (Dinkar Sharma) who buys away her lawyer (Gauri Kalekar). Amol (Amol Deshmukh), the only character who seems to have taken the lay-off in his stride, provides emotional support to his two friends while engaging with his activist-lawyer girlfriend (Rupa Borgaonkar).
With a classical premise like this, where three protagonists pursue their respective goals to overcome their immediate, conflict-ridden circumstances, it is very easy to fall into a zone that could spill over into dramatic excesses; but the director holds the reins firmly and drains out all drama and makes the scenes look almost casual. The scenes have a certain poignancy, the way they are composed and held; the mise-en-scene is designed in that manner. Quite often the camera draws our attention to details that are not seemingly linked to the main purpose of the scenes: objects gain significance over characters in a frame; through the mirror inside a restaurant we see the traffic outside, as if life moves on without being bothered about the predicament of the characters sitting inside. The unobtrusive sound designing contributes to the mood – so does the score by Keshav Iyengar, as we witness the story from a distance without getting involved with the characters, but drawn to them nevertheless.
This sparse, detached way of telling a story runs the risk of alienating its audience; it’s a charge that could well be leveled against the film; but it’s a style that grows on you – if you have managed to sit through the first couple of minutes of the film, held by the curiosity of what’s going to happen next. That way, the dramatic tension is definitely maintained, but played out in its own unhurried pace, creating a subterraneous rhythm that is brilliantly sustained by the underplayed performances of all the actors.
Despite its striking and evocative visuals and minimalist style, the form never overwhelms the content. Through the individual, yet inter-connected narratives, the film manages to convey the varied themes that it tackles in an unaffected manner: greed, ambition, self-doubt, generational divide, marital conflict, judicial prejudice, unrequited love, and a sense of loss and despair in an indifferent city – Pune in this case; but all these elements are eventually held together by a feeling of warmth that transcends the respective struggles and provides its characters – and the viewers with a hope that tomorrow could yet be a better day.
Few words about its making: The director – whose debut film this is – shot the film over a span of one and a half years, as and when he got the time and depending on the availability of actors, improvising scenes on available locations, building on a basic premise – and working throughout without a written script! All the actors are debutants, most of them students from the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), except those who play Arjun, Ila and her father (Milind Bokil, the famous Marathi writer). Same with the crew (Ajay Yadav, Associate Director and Editor and Amulya Chandra, DOP) – except the director himself and the sound designer and mixer Madhu Apsara, who are FTII alumni.
Weather Report is a testimony to the spirit of independent cinema that seems to proclaim that all you need to make a film is passion and the support of like-minded, enthusiastic people – the zilch budget notwithstanding.
Hindi, English, Marathi, Malayalam, Drama, Color