Once in a while, while browsing Netflix I stumble upon a film which I ought to have watched earlier. And although the reviews might seem dated, I feel like writing about films which touched me. Once again, directed by Kanwal Sethi, is one such film. Two solid reasons to watch the film are Shefali Shah and Neeraj Kabi. With a lead pair with such boundless talent, it was a film I could not resist clicking. And I was not mistaken.
Once again is a simple love story set in the bustling metropolis of Mumbai. Between middle-aged adults, who are past their prime. Yet lonely. Bereft of spouses for different reasons. Neeraj Kabi plays Amar Kumar, an aging actor who is beginning to doubt his screen presence. He lives, for most times, alone, except for occasional visits by his teenage daughter (Rasika Dugal, spunky as always). Shefali Shah plays a widow with two grown-up children, who makes a living by running a restaurant. She sends tiffin boxes to the actor every day and that is their point of contact. It leads to a series of daily 10 pm conversations on the phone. If this sounds like The Lunchbox, this is where the similarity ends.
Once again is a film with not too many dialogues. Even the conversations are more about meaningful pauses and monosyllabic responses. But what comes across as powerful are the long gazes, the lonely eyes, and the forlorn expressions. Shefali Shah and Neeraj Kabi are both in terrific form and you can feel their loneliness. Shefali particularly, can speak so much through her eyes and face, without saying a word. And look stunning as well despite messy hair.
Beyond the silences, equally loud, are the beautiful vistas of Mumbai. A city where the crowd makes you feel more lonely. The skyscrapers and the sea, the shadows and the silhouettes, beautifully captured by Eeshit Narain’s cinematography. Even more soul-stirring is Talvin Singh’s music which settles into the grooves where words seem unnecessary. Shefali herself sings in one of the scenes.
Does an actor have the luxury of following his heart when the paparazzi doesn’t understand privacy? Does a lonely woman have the right to seek pleasure along with being a responsible parent? Does every man-woman relationship have to have a name? Where does one toe the societal line and when does one listen to the song within? Watch this movie on a day when you are feeling mellow enough to watch something with a slow pace. For you will need to imbibe the pain and the love that this pair of outstanding actors conjure up on screen.
‘Once again’ is streaming on Netflix (1 hour and 41 minutes)