Sunny Deol, Sakshi Tanwar, Ravi Kishan
At heart, Mohalla Assi is pure and beautiful, however when it comes to execution somehow Chandraprahash Dwivedi doesn’t manage to keep it clean and thought-provoking. Perhaps it is all the many years it took in the making that ruined its effects or maybe the intentions needed to be more dogged than that of Dwivedi.
We see Dharmanath Pandey (Sunny Deol) as a learned Sanskrit scholar, doing everything that we have not known Sunny Deol doing. So we see Pandeyji walk all over Kashi with a gamcha shawl, wearing kurtas and sporting a Chandan bindi on his forehead. The look is as awkward as we as viewers are seeing our Deol bro, on the wrong film’s sets.
Pandeyji is a very orthodox man, who believes everyone (especially the foreign tourists) are out there to kill the cultural heritage of his beautiful town. He has his cronies, a bunch of people who gather at a tea stall over a cuppa tea and local gossip. Mostly, these actors sit around mouthing dialogues over dialogues which is supposed to the whistle-worthy moments of the film, but fail miserably. Because most of the dialogues are so terribly dated that they sound like the actors are spoofing some forgotten film.
While the tea-stall debates are heating up, there is a wind of change in the city itself. The Ram Mandir topic is gaining heat, friends are ending up arguing but for Pandeyji the whirlwind of change is reaching his home. His wife Savitri (Sakshi Tanwar) who has been a silent suffer in a house where income is sparse and existence is getting difficult, suddenly decides to put her foot down. She wants to rent a portion of their house to a French tourist who will be in town to learn Sanskrit. Savitri sees it as an opportunity to end their financial misery, but Pandeyji sees it as everything that he has always been against. The whole of the second half of the film, concentrates on the couple’s dynamics and loses focus of the bigger story.
There is nothing in the film that really catches notice, though there are actors like Ravi Kishen (who plays an Alec-Smart tourist guide) and Sakshi Tanwar who give pitch perfect performances, it is seeing them that Sunny Deol starts looking like a sore thumb. He is totally miscasted in the film and it appears like he is not even making an effort to fit in. If he thought this film was to be his big ticket to renaissance, he would be disappointed. Seeing him amongst the milieu of actors who fit seamlessly in the Varanasi set up, you start missing a hand-pump, hoping you will see him in some crazy, unbelievable action immediately because anything would be better than seeing him in Mohalla Assi.
The blame here lies squarely on the fact that it took awfully long to make this film, the time spent in making it looks obvious when you see the film looking dated in parts. Here’s hoping we see Sunny Deol, and the fine actor that he is, in cinema that he deserves to be a part of.