© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
2006 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL
RETURN TO RAJAPUR

 For a time in the early 1990s, playwright Tom Stoppard explored the
intriguing concept of depicting a dual story of an historical event and the
contemporary individuals investigating such an event, mainly through
manuscripts and letters, most notably in
ARCADIA. He addressed similar
themes, though, in his 1991 radio play
"In the Native State" which formed
the nucleus for his 1995 stage work
INDIAN INK. I was particularly
reminded of the latter while watching
RETURN TO RAJAPUR, the feature
directorial debut of Nanda Anand, who also wrote the screenplay.

As in the Stoppard work, there's a mystery at the heart of the story.
Samantha (Kelli Garner), a 22-year old American woman, arrives in
Rajapur armed with a handful of photographs and letters. She's determined
to uncover the true story behind events that unfolded in the early 1980s as
they related to Jai Singh (Manoj Bajpai), the erudite owner of a dilapidated
palace. Posing as a grant writer (who conveniently fails to turn up),
Samantha begins her investigation into the lives of an American couple,
Sara and Jeremy Reardon (Lynn Collins and Justin Theroux) who spent
their honeymoon in the area. Samantha arrives with a set of preconceived
notions that eventually are stripped away, although she only learns parts of
the truth.

 The film shifts easily between time frames and director Anand skillfully
weaves the story in a compelling manner. My biggest complaint with the
movie is that the ending felt rushed -- I was paying attention to everything
that was occurring on screen, yet I became a bit confused. Perhaps it
doesn't matter in the long run, but it marred an otherwise enjoyable
experience.

 The cast is uniformly good, with Garner (whom I found miscast in
THE
AVIATOR
) delivering a fine turn. The strongest acting, though, is from Lynn
Collins (who sounds like Gwyneth Paltrow) and Justin Theroux as the
couple. He's an alcoholic who married a meal ticket and she's a woman
who comes to the conclusion she might have made an error. Her decision
is enhanced by her growing attraction to Jai Singh, and Bajpai makes the
character believable, successfully essaying both the younger and
contemporary versions. There's also fine supporting work from the always
reliable Celia Weston and Frank Langella.

Although on a minor scale,
RETURN TO RAJAPUR contains some of
the lushness of
THE ENGLISH PATIENT or A PASSAGE TO INDIA.
Even so, it accomplishes a great deal, proving engrossing and enjoyable.


                        Rating:               A-