‘Ahaan’ film review: A piece of art, delved rationally     

The film is as much about Down syndrome, as it is about OCD. It feels like a fresh breeze in the league of crime-thrillers or multi-starrer sob-sob theatrical dramas on offer these days

‘Ahaan’ film review: A piece of art, delved rationally      

Rana Siddiqui Zaman

The word Ahaan literally means dawn, sunrise or morning glory, the first ray of light, one who is of the nature of time itself, or the beginning or rise of anything.

And symbolically the film Ahaan, that has hit the cinema halls this Friday, echoes just the same.

Directed and written by a first timer in Bollywood, a young Nikhil Pherwani, the film is a pioneer of sorts in Hindi cinema aka Bollywood in three ways.

Primarily, this is arguably first such attempt in Bollywood to highlight two (disease) conditions, we barely know how to tackle; viz a boy with Down syndrome who has become an adult but is treated like a child by his parents and people around him. Two, its reel hero is, also a real hero. Abuli Mamaji is Mumbai-based adult with Down syndrome who plays himself in this feature film; and three, he is pitted against among the best actors in the industry Arif Zakaria, who plays a man with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disease).

Our films usually introduce a specially abled person as a comic relief or to draw sympathy, side-lining the real issues they face, because the film is never about them.

But ‘Ahaan’ is about them, and for those who ‘handle them’ as caregivers, parents, and those audiences who would be able to take something out of it, than offer oodles of sympathy.

An hour-and-20-minutes film, ‘Ahaan’ is praiseworthy for its clean, unpretentious script with a logical approach. It, thankfully, is real time dealing with real issues, without being preachy or on the face.

This film is as much about Down syndrome, as it is about OCD. The marriage of the two is an intelligent idea. It is thought-provoking and feels like a fresh breeze in the league of crime-thrillers or multi-starrer sob-sob theatrical dramas on offer these days.

The story is about two families living in the same building. In one, Ahaan (Abuli Mamaji) a 25-year-old with Down Syndrome Is born to rich parents, a work-from-home mother (Shilpa Mehtai) and a busy businessman father (Kaizad Kotwal), the other family has a middle-aged man Ozzy (Arif Zakaria) with obsession for cleanliness. He suffers from OCD. Arif’s wife Anu (Niharika Singh) is a happy go-lucky girl, reliable and sensible woman.

Because of Ahaan’s condition, Ozzy doesn’t like his presence at his home. His casual and careless mannerisms and eating habits irritate him while Anu is friends with him. She buys brownies from his mother which he often comes to deliver. In return, he is treated with delicious food she cooks.

Ozzy, because of his condition doesn’t want to have a child unlike Anu and Ahaan’s parents are over protective about him. Somewhere in between, the two men suffer within. They open up to each other under forced circumstances, that not only brings the two closer but also unfolds their deep fears, frustrations, faults and failures.

An important character in the film is Ahaan’s caregiver, a servant Hari (Harish Raut), more like a family member, who is also his friend with whom Ahaan shares his dreams and aspirations of having a girlfriend, marriage, his own family, children, a car, a house and “office job like papa”. Due to his speech issues, Ahaan calls Onella (Plabita Borthakur) Vanila and also enacts how he will be with her during intimate moments.

As Ozzy’s wife leaves his house due to his OCD and his refusal to take a counsellor’s help, Ahaan and Ozzy come closer and spend some time together in an attempt to bring her back. This friendship unravels a chain of things, the audience is exposed to. The film digs out several issues they face at the societal level.

Never attempting to become preachy, Ahaan solves many issues yet leaves the film open-ended. It is no sob story but has deep doses of emotions as much it has doses of humour that give you a hearty laugh, especially the scene in which Ahaan has gajar ka halwa made by Ozzy’s run-away wife, and Ozzy in an attempt to eat the delicacy, makes conscious efforts to bring Ahaan home and tolerate his idiosyncrasies. The two pining for the tasty halwa is a scene to relish. The scene in the public toilet is hilarious, where Ozzy has to choose between the joy of relaxation after peeing or endure the unbearable stench.

The film risks itself towards a drag in the middle, but manages enough, so there is not even a single dull moment there.

Arif as Ozzy proves his mettle once again. His irritation, frowns, anger, frustration as a man obsessed with cleanliness, his unpretentious way of delivering dialogues makes the film look very natural, as if the role was tailor-made for him and we are seeing the thing happening in our neighbourhood.

Abuli Mamaji is a good match to Arif with no affectations. He says his dialogues like he must be talking naturally at home. His speech has a natural slur and incoherence given his condition. Nikhil solves the audiences’ problem with subtexts playing with the film. However, even in its absence, the emotions played are convincing.

Otherwise a fine actor, Rajit Kapoor seems to have forgotten how to act. Nikhil wastes him in the small role of a therapist too. Haresh Raut needs special mention for being a natural actor, is a pleasure to see, and so does Plabita Borthakur as the neighbourhood girl and a friend of Ahaan, whom he secretly loves and wants to marry. Niharika, within her limited range to play emotions, impresses as a responsible wife, a good human being, though tired of her husband’s OCD. Whether it is Neha, Shilpa Mehta or Kaizad Kotwal, their subtle ways to emote save the film from pompousness.

NIkhil has chosen his cast very carefully, hence.

A must watch film, Ahaan is a sensible piece of art, delved rationally.

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Published: 23 Mar 2021, 2:29 PM