In Munish Bhardwaj’s Moh Maya Money, Ranvir Shorey plays a real-estate broker named Aman, one of the millions of middle-class men trying to escape middle-classness. But he doesn’t want to claw his way out. He wants a first-class flight ticket over the fence – hence the revelation that he’s been pocketing money from his company. One day, he has enough to buy a plot of land, on which he plans to build a house. He and his wife (Divya, played by Neha Dhupia) will live on the ground floor. They’ll rent out the two floors above. Divya, who works in a media house, listens cautiously. Aman sees a dream home. She sees a castle in the air. Her words to him, earlier, have all been admonitory. “Bura phasoge.” “Kyon karte ho aise risk wala kaam?” You think she’s the anchor in the relationship, but she’s got her own secrets. The film is about money. The film is also about a marriage.
Bhardwaj is a subtle filmmaker. He makes us think this is a solid marriage, if one that’s become unremarkable over time. He stages a choreographed dance of Aman and Divya on different calls, waltzing in and out of the frame, as if on cue. They seem to have a rhythm. Maybe too much so – for they appear to have become experts at doing their own thing, avoiding contact. And every time we see them in bed, we realise there really are problems. There’s not one intimate moment. She snaps at him to stop shaking his legs, because the whole bed shakes. Another moment occurs after Divya has an accident. (She’s driving, and she bumps into a pedestrian.) Aman’s first thoughts aren’t about whether she is okay but whether the man is demanding money. Later, before going to sleep, he apologises. He takes her hand. She watches him silently. Most telling is the scene where he lies down and spreads his ill-gotten wealth beside him, on Divya’s side of the bed. He looks happier with it than he does with her.
The pedestrian (Ashwath Bhatt), it turns out, does not want money – his goodness, his kindness is heartbreaking as the film takes a turn into noir territory. Not in the sense of a femme fatale and a patsy who is being played (though there is a bit of that), but in the feeling that destiny is a sadistic sniper on the rooftop, taking shots at random people. Aman needs money. He hatches a plan. I cannot tell you much more, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by the events that follow. They don’t have that click of inevitability. I didn’t buy Divya’s belated cultivation of a conscience either. But the actors are good, and the film’s low-key existentialism – its riffs on the ramifications of a crime – strikes a chord. It says shit happens. And then it reminds us that there isn’t enough toilet paper in the world to clean it all up.
- moh maya = worldly attachment, illusion
- “Bura phasoge” = You’re going to get caught.
- “Kyon karte ho aise risk wala kaam?” = Why do you do such risky things?
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