Just think. A well-meaning workaholic doctor confronted by an old man
with a little boy who suffers from a rare cancer that can be cured only
if the boy's eyes are surgically removed.
What bigger drama and tragedy could descend on the
Admittedly the director has hit on a foolproof plot
to squeeze every ounce of sympathy out of the audience.
But that isn't what "Shwaas" is about. The director's
vision transcends the immediate sentimentality of the situation and
the inherent melodrama of the plot to undertake a debate on the quality
What makes every breath that we take worth the while?
Is it how much time we spend doing the things we want? Or is it what
we do with the time that's allotted to us? And on a more immediate level,
how do we prepare a seven-year old boy for impending blindness?
The film's characters, big or small, all seem to exist
on screen from long before the camera caught them grieving over a matter
that tears cannot rationalise. Full marks to the director for keeping
the film completely out of studio floors. By taking the characters into
a real hospital and other authentic locations Sandeep Sawant right away
resolves an age-old dilemma in cinema.
Can studio sets take away from the authenticity level
of a story? "Shwaas" positively and irrevocably champions the cause
of authentic locations. Once in place, the characters automatically
appear to be an integral part of the heartbreaking narrative.
The actors do the rest. Whether it's the earnest medical
volunteer Aiswaraya grappling endlessly with the situation of co-ordinating
the grandfather's grief with the doctor's choc-a-block schedules, or
the little boy's mother in the village anxiously asking on phone if
surgery is necessary... The people in this intimate epic remind us of
how real reality-dramas could be, provided they set their hearts to
Not that "Shwaas" lacks a mind. A great deal of thought
has gone into making Sandeep Sawant's film what the moving experience
that it is. The manner in which he inter cuts idyllic scenes from the
grandfather and the boy's village life with the grim claustrophobic
reality of the city hospital, echoes the enchanting lyricism of Satyajit
Ray's Bengali "Pather Panchali" and Shaji Karun's Malayalam "Piravi".
The narrative, straight simple and sincere, is spiced
with dollops of symbolism (for example, the sparks of fire falling to
the ground as the ill boy, his grandfather and the poor kindly relative
who accompanies them stride fearfully through the city) ignite what
could have been a dry and dreadfully defeatist drama of death-like dimensions.
Far from it, "Shwaas" is finally and gloriously an
assertion of life. It's one of the bravest and most sincere celebrations
of the human spirit and its ability to face up and finally conquer adversity,
told in a mode that blissfully avoids melodrama and triteness.
Who can forget the upbeat finale when the boy, now
blind and bespectacled rows back into the village and claps when he
senses he is near home? It's one of the most life-asserting moments
in Indian cinema, on a par with Supriya Chowdhary's scream - "I want
to live!" - at the end of Ritwick Ghatak's Bengali "Meghe Dhaka Tara".
The classical contours of "Shwaas" tend to lose their
character because of the essentially melodramatic theme. Fortunately
the director is able to assert his vision and will on the plot in a
way that circumvents the pitfalls of extravagant emotionalism.
More than simply being a debate on life and mortality
"Shwaas" takes a sweeping stinging though miraculously non-judgemental
look at the pitfalls of the medical profession, and how a little bit
of the human touch can assuage and heal far better than medicines and
The over-worked doctor's moral and emotional dilemma,
touched upon in Hrishikesh Mukherjee's "Anand", is here poignantly stressed
by the fact that we never see Sane's wife and child, only hear their
"Shwaas" is an unforgettable metaphor for the quality
of understated excellence that regional cinema is capable of under the