Ankhon Dekhi is a simple film centred around a complex character. The simpler part works better at the apparent story level, the other is an overdose of talking, questioning and heavy duty, not too subtle philosophising.
The story is a slice of life portrayal of a pyjama clad common man who turns out to be the most uncommon man on the street. At one point he is seen holding up a placard that says: “Sab kuch yehin hai,aankhen khol kar dekho”. Something like the man we see in Mumbai at Juhu signal.
Likewise the film has an interesting treatment that outwardly maintains a setting and a world you see day in and day out. An overcrowded, small house in Old Delhi, where a joint family of two brothers and their grown up children live with with their everyday problems. The gentle, easy going narrative draws you into the family so well that you almost experience what the main character, calls his own life experience. There is no effort to over dramatise the story or rush the screenplay. It helps that the smooth camera work ( Rafey Mehmood ) and the production design (Meenal Aggarwal) lend an authenticity to the detailing of a simple household.
We see a close-knit family living together, fighting with each other and for each other. Middle-aged Bauji (Sanjay Mishra) has a daughter, Rita, who is seeing an unworthy lad; Ajju. Bauji’s wife (Seema Pahwa) and brother (Rajat Kapoor) are deeply upset and against the idea of letting Rita marry anyone who has no family credentials. The chaos in the house leads to an almost comic situation where Bauji’s entire kith and kin land up at poor Ajju’s house to beat him up.
We get a first glimpse into Bauji’s mild mannered approach to an otherwise potentially violent situation. We see along wih Bauji that Ajju is not so bad after all; leave alone dangerous for Rita, as he is made out to be.
This unlikely incident is a huge eye-opener for Bauji, literally. A rebellion of sorts takes over Bauji’s mind. He refuses to accept anything that he has not seen before with his own eyes; be it the notion whether a tiger growls or barks or whether the bath water feels cold or warm. He goes on to stretch his new found ‘aankhon dekhi’ life philosophy so far that it affects his relationship with his brother adversely. It is this part of the story that feels true to the emotions, more so, with a strong performance by writer- director-actor, Rajat Kapoor.
So far so good.
However, it is the very character of Bauji that keeps getting hammered in throughout the script, which gets tiresome and irritating after a while. His eccentricities and idiosyncracies, sudden changes from talking too much to going off on silent wars to gathering a fan following only to suddenly dismiss and disown everyone, amount to a character overkill. The background score is more of an intrusion at times. At one point, there is a random and unnecessary scene that shows a young boy talking non-stop for a couple of days. The silence that follows is a relief.The talk heavy and character crowded script gives the film a theatrical feel which jars now and then.
Yet, there are other moments, more in keeping with the apparent storyline that bring more credibility. Like the brief awkward moment the two brothers have when eating from separate roadside food stalls or when Bauji designs and redesigns his daughter’s wedding card only to end up upsetting her further.
Amongst the actors, Taranjeet as Kapoor’s wife and Maya Sarao as Bauji’s daughter, suit their parts to the hilt.
Overall, Ankhon Dekhi is like Bauji. Loving, quirky yet flawed and unsettling.