Masaan in its English translation means crematorium, but the film, in its wider release, is named Fly Away Solo. This dichotomy of tone between the translations can be seen throughout the film and that is where Neeraj Ghaywan scored in his brilliant debut feature. The film is uplifting but heartbreaking, reflecting on both sorrow and hope and thus transcends to something that can be as refreshing as the morning air.
In Masaan, the story, set in Banaras, is woven around two primary protagonists, Deepak(Vicky Kaushal) and Devi(Richa Chadda). One of them faces tragedy early in the film, and the other one sees its devastating form later. But, predictably, and here 'predictably' should not be taken in a negative way, both of their lives converge; one finding closure through struggle and another solace amidst loneliness.
Masaan is not plot-driven, but character-driven; the like we see in Iranian and Romanian new wave films. It is not much of a story-telling than portrayal of life on screen. Life and the elements that control it; namely society, religion, family, love and death. This is where Masaan triumphs. It is hard yet poignant, heartbreaking and yet poetic; because life is all of those.
Masaan dwindles on life and death like its name. Death is a prominent figure in the story and And it is not only two protagonists' eyes we see life at Banaras through; we see it through the eyes of Vidyadhar Pathak too. A guilt-ridden and simpleton father struggling to protect his daughter, Devi. Pathak's attempt to diminish the distance between him and his daughter is one of the key points of this film.
Writer Varun Grover and Director Neeraj Ghaywan deserves all the accolades and plaudits they received in the film festival circuits. Masaan creates a flurry of small yet memorable characters in form of Jhonta, a boy working as apprentice in Pathak's shop, Sadhya Ji, Devi's colleague in Railway office and the antagonist Police Inspector Mishra. All of them were necessary elements that framed the picturesque story in Masaan.
Vicky Kaushal and Richa Chadda led the performances by churning out superlative display. Kaushal's portrayal was simple and charming while being in love and effortlessly devastating in front of death. Chadda was subdued but strong, much like her character. However, it was veteran actor Sanjai Mishra who shone as Pathak. His nuances while Pathak was trying to remain strong in trying times were impeccable and bound to bring a tear or two when he broke down. Special mention for Pankaj Tripathi who played Sadhya Ji.
Masaan is one of those films where everything clicks. If you praise writing, direction and performances of actors, you cannot simply leave the cinematography and music of the film. "Tu Kisi Rail Si…" and "Man Kasturi R…" would definitely strike a chord of melancholy in viewers.
Masaan is a beautiful of piece of lives in a world you definitely would not want to miss from experiencing.