MOHALLA ASSI

Har , har, Mahadev !

 

Mohalla Assi  (2015)

By  Chandraprakash Dwivedi

 

Based on the novel-Kashi ka Assi By Kashinath Singh

 

“Kashi ka Assi” begins with a liberal dose of  Varanasi’s slangs in its  lingua franca ,the vituperative Hindi spoken with  leisurely aplomb and summary dismissal- ‘Bh-ke’  being its most loved honorific.

The novel had me hooked from the very first paragraph.Who writes such lines  ?

“har har mahadev ke sath Bh-ke ka nara to kashi ka sarvajanik abhivaadan hai.Antar bas itna hai ki pehla zara zor laga ke bolna padta hai,doosra apne aap gale se foot padta hai…”

“हर हर महादेव के साथ भों-के का नारा तो काशी का सार्वजनिक अभिवादन है । अंतर बस इतना है कि पहला ज़रा ज़ोर लगा के बोलना पड़ता है , दूसरा अपने आप गले से फूट पड़ता है”.

Or these-

“sala vipiya ( v p singh) b –ka jab har taraf durduraya aur latiyaya ja raha tha ,tab wo assi hi tha jisne use sir ankon par bithaya aur nara dia-raja nahin fakir hai,desh ki taqdeer hai…”

“साला विपिया (विश्वनाथ प्रताप सिंह) भों-का जब हर तरफ दुरदुराया और लतियाया जा रहा था ,तब वो अस्सी ही था जिसने उसे सिर आँखों पर बैठाया और नारा दिया – राजा नहीं फकीर है ,देश कि तक़दीर है”।

The novel is set in  the  Assi mohalla of Benaras of late 1980s and early 90s . Kashinath Singh takes a look at the social,economic and political situation of the country .These were  the turbulent times of the Mandal (OBC reservations) and the Kamandal(Ram Janmabhoomi). This was also the phase when forces of globalization had  unleashed themselves upon the city and its hapless folks. A large number of foreigners descended upon the ghats of Benaras to learn Sanskrit,Yoga and enjoy cheaply available drugs as well as a respectable lifestyle ,thanks to our cheap currency . Some  morally decadent and economically weak locals of Benaras  ,when faced with the onslaught of the forces beyond their control,first resisted,then resented ,but finally accepted and thrived in this  new era. Not just lifestyles and economic conditions changed,but also were challenged established rituals,conventions,relations and morals of the conservative Hindu order.

 

“Dene wala bhagwan,

Jajaman kya dega B ka…”

“देने वाला भगवान ,जजमान क्या देगा भों-का “?

This deadly dialogue has stayed with me even  a decade after I first read Kashi ka Assi.While uttering this dialogue in the film,Sunny Deol slips ,and slips badly.Instead of the last ‘ka’ he utters ‘ke’,and also takes a brief  pause  after ‘dega’. This changes the entire meaning of the statement.Not that it impacts the film narrative,but its anathema to good taste.

This is where u wonder why a director,as  seasoned as Chandraprakash Dwivedi, would cast Sunny Deol in the role of a  puritanical Kashi pandit.Poor guy speaks even normal,everyday Hindi in a schoolboy’s English accent.Its  a wonder as well as to why would Sunny Paahji choose to this film in the first place ?Except this one slip of tongue ,Sunny has played this nuanced role   with panache,and surprised me with the sincerity of his effort.

Pandey ji  might  not have had any  qualms uttering  b-ka or ke which is the punchline not just of  Assi,but of the whole Kashi,but is nevertheless positioned as the last man standing against the onslaught of globalisation on the ghats .From a conservative pandit,who attends Kar Seva in Ayodhya,and detests the advent of foreigners on the ghats,Pandey ji goes through a personal upheaval and  is transformed into an agent of change.I could never have imagined that Sunny Deol was capable of pulling this one off,but hats off to him for trying !

This also speaks a lot about what a good director can do with even a third grade actor.

Saxi tanwar,as his wife has played the role of a compliant ,but motormouth wife with abandon .Ravikishen is also very convinving as a tout-cum-wheeler dealer and an agent of change.Barber baba also represents one of the many real stories of the Ghats.

The novel centralised  its action at Pappu ki Dukaan where self-professed intellectuals and socio-political activists used to  gather to perform “rashtra chintan”.Quite aptly a character described  the shop as the last bastion of democracy on Assi Ghat.Prof Gaya Singh ,a character,mouths  some memorable lines like these-

“bhaang assi ki sanskriti hai.aur sharma,b ke,tum hote kaun ho,assi ki sanskriti ko badalne wale.angrezzi commode par baith kar jhada karne wale sharma,tumkya jano bhaang ka sambandh divya niptaan se hai, divya niptaan ka  sambhand swachhata se hai,sur swachhata ka sambandh assi se hai.”

“भांग अस्सी की संस्कृति है और शर्मा भों-के (पुलिस इंस्पेक्टर),तुम होते कौन हो अस्सी की संस्कृति को बदलने वाले ? अंग्रेजी कोमोड़ पर बैठकर झाड़ा करने वाले शर्मा ,तुम क्या जानो भांग का संबंध दिव्य निपटान से है ,दिव्य निपटान का संबंध स्वच्छता से है और स्वच्छता का संबंध अस्सी से है”।

The film scores very high in my book  since it has kept all the great dialogues  and recreated the  situations  in quite the same fashion as they existed in the novel .Its,as well as the novel’s , triumph lies in its raw and uncomfortable honesty .When I first heard of CP Dwivedi’s plans to make a movie based on the novel,esp.with Sunny Deol as the lead,I thought the story was more apt for serialising .But the end result is a very palatable one.I wonder why the film has been stuck with censors.As one line in the novel says-

“jo log basha me gaali aur gandagi dekhte hain ,assi ke log unhe chew samajhte hain…. aur b ke,jise tum gaali samajhte ho,wo assi ki rashtra bhasha hai..”

“जो लोग भाषा में गाली और गंदगी देखते हैं ,अस्सी के लोग उन्हे चूतिया समझते हैं ….और भों-के ,जिसे तुम गाली समझते हो,वो अस्सी की राष्ट्र भाषा है”।

(this was in reference to the saffron threat against holding the legendary Mahamoorkh Kavi Sammelan on holi.)

The film is also a great tribute to  secular unity,or ‘ ganga-jamna sabhyata/tehzeeb ’ which has developed through centuries of deliberations over these very ghats.The omnipresent Mahadev permeates every part of this film and novel , as he resides in every nook and corner of the city.

This film must be supported by watching it anyhow.If one doesnt mind Hindi,Kashi ka Assi is a great novel to know Kashi as well.

 

 

 

 

One Comment Add yours

  1. Chinmoy Jena says:

    An outstanding review. This is how a review should be written, keeping the mood and mileau of the novel in mind. A little more on the beginning and the ending could have made the review complete.

    Like

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