'Azaad' salutes tricolour, but does nothing for cinema

Mumbai: This Independence Day, actor Chandan Roy Sanyal turns director with a short film entitled "Azaad". But is it enough to make a well-intended patriotic pitch through a film? If flag-waving nationalism is the flavour you fancy on August 15, "Azaad " does it right for you. Chandan, a talented actor yet to get his due, directs a film on one of the lesser-known freedom fighters, Aga Khan. Chandan casts himself as the prodigal grandson returning home to a world he had left behind with a Caucasian girlfriend in tow. As he travels with his girlfriend by a taxi driven by a Sikh cabbie, Chandan gets flashes from his past indicating his affinity to the freedom movement. This could be Saif Ali Khan's ad for a fabric… You know the one where he returns home to a Rajasthani welcome? Chandan misses the chance to make a poignant statement on a generation that has lost the will to renew the struggle to keep India's spirit of freedom alive. Instead, the short film (which feels terribly long… and wrong) relies on cliches to make its point on the war that our freedom fighters waged for India. This is "Rang De Basanti" without the 'rang' (colour) or the glitz. Attempts to weave Chandan in the present day with past glimpses of his grandfather's anti-colonial adventures are further complicated by flashbacks of little Chandan (yes there's a little boy playing him) bonding with his grandfather who regales the little boy with his anti-Raj adventures. Wish we could share the child's enthusiasm. Just about the only bright spot in this tangle on the tricoloured tiranga's true relevance is the ever-dependable Adil Hussain as Chandan's grandfather. He attempts to infuse the inadequate energy of the narration with some amount of brio. "Azaad" is more a defused bomb than an explosive drama. There is way too much happening in the 23-minute film and too little emotional heft to support the profusion of events. It all feels like a well-intended mission aborted by inept execution. Woefully inadequate and ineffectual.