Cast and Credits
India | 2012 | 106 Minutes | Hindi, English | U.S. Premiere
Directed By : Avinash Kumar Singh
Casting : Farouque Shaikh, Deepti Naval, Swara Bhaskar, Amala Akkineni, Siddhant Karnick, Vidya Bhushan, Viren Basoya
LISTEN AMAYA, a lyrical chamber-piece of a movie by the first-time director Avinash K Singh, is a pure joy to watch.
Here conversations are casual, wit and humor abundant, people across generations are affable trying their best to connect with each other.
None of the scenes are over-written – by keeping only want is essential, the screenplay by Avinash and Geeta Singh demonstrates a mature sense of economy and precision. There is hardly any quiet moment in the film, yet, all the characters articulate their thoughts without stilted utterances or being frivolous, the film never loses a beat in keeping its plot moving towards the denouement at a rhythmic pace.
Although LISTEN AMAYA may easily be over-analyzed as a film about sociological this and that, the heart and soul of the film lie in the realms of human memory. Three inseparable individuals who are separated from or connected to each other only by the weight and pull of their personal memories make up the dramatis personae.
Set mostly inside a boutique coffee-shop, “Book a coffee, an offbeat library cum coffee shop” run by a widow, Leela (Deepti Naval), with a trade-mark infectious smile, who wants to travel the world. She charms and befriends her much younger customers and us (the audience) even before anyone of us realize.
Leela’s 22-year old daughter, fun-loving sweet-and-sour impulsive Amaya (newcomer Swara Bhaskar), has a talent for writing. She teams up with the widower Jayant aka Jaz (Farooq Shaikh) — a photographer client at Leela’s Café-turned-an-extended-member-of-the-family who has lost his wife and young daughter in a car accident — in authoring a non-fiction picture book for which she is the writer and Jayant is the still photographer. Sixty-year old Jayant believes that one gets to know a person better by the memories that person carries around and inspires Amaya to write a childhood memoir.
The threesome have built sort of mutually exclusive relationships amongst themselves. But, Jayant “listens” intently to the fading sound of the footsteps of his ever-receding memories, strong-willed Leela “listens” to her heart, and Amaya lives in an imagined world in selfish refusal to “listen” to the feelings and sentiments of others surrounding her. Apparently easy-going casual relationships collide head-on and are put to test in the course of the story, the casual becomes serious, easy-going becomes conflicted.
The storyline is thin (the reason why I’m not going to give away any more of it), but, that, in no way, is a weakness of the film. The thin shell of the story cracks open to the core easily and we enter the private lives of Leela, Jayant and Amaya surrounded by their young admirers, join all in meditations on life and love and, especially, Memory.
Memory is the leitmotif of this deeply-felt drama resonating with beauty and honesty. Is “Every man’s memory is his private literature”, as Aldous Huxley wrote? Are we nothing without our memory? Is memory our feeling, conscience, soul, reason for action or inaction or apathy? In his private introspective moments, Jayant, a character superbly rendered by Farooq Shaikh (arguably at his best), agonizes like an embattled man trying to write his memoir but has no memories of his past.
Café-owner Leela is an absolute pleasure to meet and watch – kudos to Deepti Nanval’s virtuosi extrovert performance who is otherwise known for her realizations of quiet subdued soulful characters on screen. In Leela’s café, generation gaps have been erased and generations develop and nurture bonds of affection. One will find plenty of human contact, warmth and entertainment there – credit goes to the fine performances by the ensemble of actors.
LISTEN AMAYA, edited by Geeta Singh with assistance from a talented crew, and winner of the Best Film and Best Director Jury awards at the New Jersey Independent South Asian Cine Fest (NJISACF) 2012, unravels like a long lyrical poem. It’s one more anomaly in an industry besieged by old wine-in-new bottle “products”.