Such a Long Journey

          Any film that brings together two of Indian cinema's great actors
  Roshan Seth and Om Puri, however briefly, is one to celebrate. This is a
  cinematic moment that is equivalent to the teaming of Al Pacino and Robert
  De Niro in Michael Mann's
HEAT. Their scenes crackle with an intensity that
  momentarily raises
SUCH A LONG JOURNEY into a different realm.

          In adapting Rohinton Mistry's novel set in 1971, screenwriter Sooni
  Taraporevala and director Sturla Gunnarsson have opted to follow a few plot
  strands which capture the turbulence and tenacity of the early 1970s. (India
  and Pakistan are soon to go to war over border conflicts that date back to
  India's independence.) By focusing on the family and work life of Parsi bank
  clerk Gustad Noble (Seth), the author and the filmmakers find a microcosm
  which mirrors national events. As the instability of the country grows, events
  within Noble's household threaten to upend his traditional, balanced world:
  his son refuses to attend engineering school and runs off; his daughter
  becomes ill, probably with malaria; his wife falls under the sway of an elderly
  neighbor who prescribes folk remedies. Further complicating his life is a
  request by an old acquaintance to launder money, raising issues of the nature
  of and duty associated with friendship. In many ways, Gustad embodies
  the cliché of "the personal is political."

          Much of the story unfolds in and around the Bombay apartment house
  where the Noble family lives. The courtyard wall -- a breeding ground for
  malaria as many men use it as a urinal -- has been targeted for destruction
  so the street can be widened. In an inspired moment, Gustad convinces an
  itinerant artist (Ranjit Chowdhry) to ply his craft and soon the eyesore
  is sporting a variety of colorful religious paintings reflective of the various belief
  systems. That is a small victory for Gustad as the rest of his world verges on
  collapse.

          SUCH A LONG JOURNEY is a richly detailed, atmospheric film. The
  performances are all fine with Soni Razdan as Gustad's willful wife and
  Sam Dastor as a co-worker particularly effective. Although he has only a few
  scenes, Om Puri proves a powerful presence. But
SUCH A LONG JOURNEY
  
 rests squarely on the shoulders of Roshan Seth, one of the world's most
  underappreciated actors. A terrific stage actor (David Hare wrote the lead
  role in the play
A MAP OF THE WORLD expressly for him), Seth has proven
  his mettle in films like
GANDHI (as Nehru), MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE,
  and
THE BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA but rarely has he had a role as rich as
  Gustad Noble.

          There are a few slow moving scenes and if one isn't fully versed in
  Indian culture, some of the more subtle touches may pass by, but
  
SUCH A LONG JOURNEY is one well worth travelling, especially in the
  company of the two veterans, Om Puri and the magnificent Roshan Seth.



                          
Rating:                B+
                          
MPAA Rating:        None
                                Running time:       113 mins.
© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.