MASALA STEPS by ROHIT GUPTA

Directed by Rohit Gupta/ Reviewed by Monali Majhi

Life is nothing but a journey with ups and downs.  We often stumble on obstacles and instead of stopping and fixing the obstacle, we chose to end the journey. The lapses of the race are not the finishing line even if we sometimes mistake it to be so. Rohit Gupta’s Masala Steps deals with a man’s complications in work life and how he drifts apart from his partner eventually. The movie opens with a solitary Paresh sitting by the sea-side contemplating deeply. The contemplation continues as he returns home in a local train. Paresh is a man in his early thirties working as an investment advisor in the Stock Market. On his way home, he is faced with client’s phone calls demanding money. His helplessness tells us that this call is not the first one he received regarding that matter.

The scene from a overcrowded train to an empty compartment tells us a lot about Paresh’s current condition. The emptiness of the compartment is an objective correlative of his own life. He seems very insignificant walking slowly with  two red buses on the background. He comes home like a defeated man balancing groceries in one hand and a briefcase on other. Which role does he play better? Is that of an employee or as a husband? We will soon find out. His house speaks of his successful career so far. But we know that everything is not right with him. And so does Anu even though he does not try to communicate his despair with his wife. Anu tries to engage him in a conversation. He ignores her.  The lack of communication only intensifies his pain. Paresh’s pain is reflected in Vikram kocchar’s eyes.

The way to a man’s heart goes through his stomach. Or so they say. What Anu seems to be doing all day is cooking and waiting for Paresh to come back home. She sometimes calls Paresh to bring groceries or vegetables. He sometimes listens carefully, sometimes get annoyed. Is food Anu’s way of finding the door of Paresh’s heart? Does she call Paresh to know how he is doing in office? The film answers all these questions in due time. Meanwhile, their smiling old photographs mock their present existence. The ultimate setback comes for Anu when paresh refuses to eat her food. We see two people suffering individually lacking the courage to be open with one another.

We get a sneak-peek to Paresh’s past business life where he seemed to be a completely different person altogether – confident, smart and convincing. The people he once convinced to invest their money are coming back to his door giving him an ultimatum. He is helpless before them as the stock market does not get manipulated by insignificant player like him. It is a much bigger game. And there, he is only a pawn. After a series of incessant inner turmoil, Paresh decides to take his life to end things. He is about to jump from the cliff of life when a background voice comes as an oracle – “Steady! Don’t move forward”.  Asif, the father of a street trapiz player imparts philosophical knowledge to Paresh unconsciously which ultimately saves him from himself. He says that life is not one huge jump from one opportunity to another. Life is a series of small steps aiming towards one goal. Happiness is a state of mind and we are often caught within the prison of our own mind. Stopping midway is a part of the journey, not the end of it. Paresh finally goes to an anxious Anu with the much needed empathy and positivity.

Now onwards, it is a journey of togetherness. Rohit Gupta’s work testifies to his fame in the film festival circuit. He does not hurry with the characters and give them enough space to develop their characters on their own. The DOP Rabiul Aezaz works well with his camera. The cinematography is soothing at times. I don’t need to say anything new to Vikram Kocchar’s acting. His face says it all throughout the film. Prakruti Mishra tried to explore the character of anu as much as possible in the given context. Who grabs our attention most is Krishna singh Bisht. The oratory was fantastically done. Little Kajal made rope walking seem like cakewalk. Masala Steps shows  that one bad phase is never greater than our precious gift called life and mean it.

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