In Barah Anna, director Raja Menon performs a magic trick. He makes visible all those invisible people who intersect your life everyday and even enter your home but whom you never see ? your driver, your watchman, the waiter who brings you your coffee.
The three, Aman the waiter, played by Arjun Mather; Yadav the watchman, played by Vijay Raaz and Shukla the driver, played by Naseeruddin Shah, are friends. Bereft of any family, they look out for each other in the crowded slum where they live. They spend their evenings, drinking and exchanging notes on their lives, especially on Aman?s budding romance with an attractive Italian girl who comes
to the restaurant.
When Yadav?s son in the village takes seriously ill and he is unable to send him money, the three become accidental criminals. And sadly, they discover that crime does pay.
Menon, working from his own script, with excellent dialogue written by Aamir director Raj Kumar Gupta, plays out this grim story as a tragi-comedy. His observations on India? s class system are both sharply funny and sad. At one point, when Yadav doing double duty, falls asleep at his post, an intoxicated building resident tells him: Tum watchman logon ki wajah se is desh ki lagi hui hai.
Shukla?s memsaab treats him as a sub-species. She uses his services every day but can?t tolerate his body odor or even remember his name.
When Yadav requests a loan for his son?s treatment, nobody helps. Weeping bitterly, the driver asks why people who live in one crore rupee flats and order 2000 rupees worth of take-out food in one night, can?t spare 200 bucks to help him.
The performances are uniformly good. Arjun Mathur is sweetly bumbling as the waiter aspiring for romance and Naseeruddin Shah gives Shukla?s rage an innate dignity. But Barah Aana belongs to Vijay Raaz. Why Hindi cinema doesn?t utilize this actor more is an enduring mystery.
Vijay as Yadav is gut wrenchingly sad and yet superbly funny ? watch how his body language changes once he decides to wrench a decent life out of Mumbai by any means, fair our foul.
Barah Aana drags a bit in the second half and the portrayal of Shukla?s harridan memsaab is too simplistic. But these are minor quibbles. I strongly recommend that you watch Barah Aana. It will teach you in the best possible way to treat people with more dignity.