December 13, 2002 
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No story, but gripping nonetheless
Let's Talk explores the limits of Indian cinema

Priya Ganapati

Radhika Sareen is 33, married and pregnant with a baby that is not her husband's. When she imagines telling that to her husband Nikhil, there are eight possible emotions he could go through:

Pain: After nearly eight years of being married, losing a baby and raising another, Nikhil would have discovered his wife is having an affair with their interior decorator Krish. Their world now in pieces, all the hurt and love in the past does not exist anymore. Nikhil would cry for what is lost and what could have been.

Disbelief: She could not possibly be having an affair with Krish. He is 'short;' has an accent. It is unimaginable that his wife could be having an affair with such a man.

Denial: His wife having an affair? Can't be be true. She is 33, a bored housewife watching too many soaps; she must be making it all up. She can't 'prove' she is having an affair, so she probably isn't. In fact, he would suggest that she have the baby, get a DNA test and prove that he has been right all along: his wife is bored and deluded.

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Humour: Maybe he could meet some underworld guy and put a supari out on the interior decorator. Meeting the bhais would be fun. Always quick to make his wife laugh, Nikhil would possibly do a take-off on his rendezvous with the Bhai.

Maia Jealousy: Why would his wife want to have an affair? No one can be better than him, especially in bed. And that is what he will prove to her. He will also not be beyond making up absurd stories of him having an affair with her sister.

Irrationality: Maybe he would ask her what she wants in the future and then try to convince her that Krish is not the right choice because he is not jumping to marry her immediately.

Understanding: Now that their marriage has fallen apart, maybe Nikhil would understand. He could try to talk to her, convince her to not walk out, give it another chance and urge her to think of old times like when he used to sing to her.

Anger: She brings the worst out in him. She turns him into the devil himself. And that rage could culminate in physical violence against her.

Like the different rasas or the moods in classical Indian dance, Let's Talk explores different emotions in response to a single situation. The difference here is that all are played out only in Radhika's mind.

The structure:
Let's Talk does not have a story. Its structure is inspired from another of the art forms, the thumri where a single line is sung over and over again in a different moods and emotions. In Let's Talk the different renditions of a single line, Balamwa tum kya jano preet (O my beloved, what do you know of love?) punctuate each reaction in Radhika's imagination.

Digitally shot in two rooms, it has just two characters. It only seeks to explore Radhika's mind in a particular scenario.

Ram Madhvani At times, it can get a tad confusing, especially when the distinction between the real and imagined blurs. Consider the sequence when Radhika does tell her husband that she is pregnant. It is followed by scenes that have her thinking again of the ways in which he will react.

To give credit to director Ram Madhvani and his team, despite the non-linear structure and the lack of story, the film does not ever lose its audience. Madhvani's technique ensures that. He executes the movement with amazing fluidity.

As Radhika moves from one imagined reaction to the next, the viewer can see the protagonists playing out the new scene while, for a few seconds, Radhika from the earlier scene lingers on, to fade out a few seconds later.

The movie is devoid of any action but the dialogues and the performances keep it buoyant. Credit for that should also go to the strong streak of humour that runs through the film. Where it does falter a little is towards the end, which is left unresolved. Also, the film has a parallel track of Radha-Krishna, the tone for which is set at the beginning through an event: the sighting of Lord Krishna through the country by his devotees.

Krishna or Krish is also the name of Radhika’s lover who, for her, symbolises the hope of falling in love at 33 and an escape from a marriage that has become 'stale.' The film tries to translate the myths of Lord Krishna as the eternal lover and his beloved Radha, who represents the eternal seeker of love into the Radhika-Krish track.

In the entire film, this is the part that seems pretentious and forced.

The performances:
Let's Talk works because of the performances. Boman Irani as Nikhil Sareen is simply marvelous. He owns the film and manipulates the viewer's reactions with ease.

As he shifts from one reaction to another, his performance alters subtly. His gestures change, body language alters and the emotions that he seeks to project spread out beautifully in front of the audience.

Maia Each emotion he portrays is different, yet there is one thread common through them: he is the husband who has to face the reality of his wife having an affair. There is no exaggeration in his performance: no melodrama to show anger, no slapstick to show humour and no theatrics to show pain. Of course, the credit for drawing out such a superbly controlled performance from him should also go to his director.

Maia Katrak plays Radhika Sareen. She complements Irani well but is handicapped by the fact that it is Irani's film all the way.

The verdict:
Let's Talk explores the limits of Indian cinema. It experiments with everything -- the structure, performances, technique and plot.

It twists almost every rule of conventional filmmaking and churns out a funny yet emotional story, despite not having one in the first place.

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