Liar's Dice


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Liar's Dice
"Thapa, Siddiqui and Gupta - not to mention the goat - are all eminently watchable but Mohandas' pacing leaves much to be desired."

The feature debut from Geethu Mohandas offers a sincere and naturalistic snapshot of rural and urban India as her female protagonist Kamala (Geetanjali Thapa) endures the trials of a lone woman who embarks on an eventful road trip. Kamala lives in a small village in the borderlands with Tibet, along with her little girl Manya (Manya Gupta). After waiting for months for word - not to mention financial support - from her husband, who has gone to find building work in the city, the doubts are crowding in. On receiving short shrift from the village elders - the first indication of a patriarchy she will continually find herself in conflict with - she decides to go and find out once and for all whether he has merely moved on with his life of if something more sinister has happened.

She leaves the village with nothing but Manya, the kid's pet goat and her mobile phone (one of the more annoying aspects of the film is that despite all the remote territory covered, this seems to never need charging). From the outset, there is no doubting the strength of Kamala's determination or the fact that she is ill-equipped to take on this journey into the unknown. When an avalanche forces her and her ragtag family to tackle a mountain on foot their path crosses that of Nawazuddin (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Despite a high level of mutual distrust, he agrees to help her get to Shimla in return for payment.

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As the journey continues and the problems mount for Kamala, the difficulties also increase for those of us on the other side of the cinema screen. Primarily, the character development is an issue. We know very little about either Kamala or Nawazuddin beyond her initial set-up and hints that he may be some sort of soldier, now fallen from grace. Their relationship proceeds in virtual silence and never moves forward, which means that the childhood scurryings and bold approach to people of Manya - yet to learn the hard realities that have shaped her mother's attitude - and the tinkle of her pet kid's bell, offer most of the dynamism.

Thapa, Siddiqui and Gupta - not to mention the goat - are all eminently watchable and Rajeev Ravi captures the shifting rural to urban landscape with aplomb but Mohandas' pacing leaves much to be desired, the journey becoming such a dawdle at some points that it tests the patience. There are also big question marks over the characters' motivations, in particular, Kamala's willingness to put Manya in jeopardy for very little reward. The early longueurs make for additional problems at the climax of the film, which arrives in a sudden rush of revelation - abrupt and which will leave many feeling that like Kamala, they have travelled too far for too little.

Reviewed on: 30 May 2014
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A woman goes in search of her missing husband.

Director: Geethu Mohandas

Writer: Geethu Mohandas

Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Geetanjali Thapa, Manya Gupta, Murari Kumar, Vikram Bhagra

Year: 2013

Runtime: 104 minutes

Country: India

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