Morning Raga

  • 2004
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

A fatal bus accident affects two generations of South Indian families in this music-driven melodrama. 1984: Gifted singer Swarnalatha (Shabana Azmi), schooled in the classical carnatic tradition, persuades her friend, amateur violinist Vaishnavi (Ranjani Ramakrishnan), to perform with her in a nearby city. But the bus carrying both young mothers and their...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A fatal bus accident affects two generations of South Indian families in this music-driven melodrama. 1984: Gifted singer Swarnalatha (Shabana Azmi), schooled in the classical carnatic tradition, persuades her friend, amateur violinist Vaishnavi (Ranjani Ramakrishnan), to perform with her in a nearby city. But the bus carrying both young mothers and their children collides with a weaving car while crossing the bridge that connects the village to the mainland. Vaishnavi dies, as does Swarnalatha's child. Twenty years later, Vaishnavi's son, Abhinay (Prakash Rao), lives in big-city Hyderabad and has a successful career writing jingles. Frustrated by the anonymity of composing commercials, he quits and returns home to consider his options. His old-fashioned father (Naaser) insists he should give up music and take over the family farm, but Abhinay wants to form his own progressive rock ensemble. He'd also like to speak with Swarnalatha, against whom his father still nurses a bitter grudge. Swarnalatha, for her part, is convinced the accident was a punishment for her ambitions and hasn't left the village in 20 years. Overwhelmed by guilt and superstitious fear of the bridge, reinforced by the fact that Abhinay is nearly run down by a car just as she passes it, Swarnalatha retreats further into seclusion. But the near-accident proves serendipitous: The driver, a young singer named Pinkie (Perizaad Zorabian), join forces with Abhinay and her mother, Mrs. Kapoor (Lillette Dubey), lets them rehearse in a space above her successful clothing store and uses her connections to get them gigs. She also tells Pinkie a secret with terrible implications: Not only did her father die in the same accident that killed Abhinay's mother, but he actually caused it. The band gets off to a rocky start; one of Mrs. Kapoor's friends advises them that they're imitating white musicians trying to be black, and if they want to find their own unique sound they should look to their own heritage. So Abhinay badgers Swarnalatha into rehearsing with them, setting the stage for emotional upheaval as the accident's legacy of secrets and lies come home to roost. Writer-director Mahesh Dattani's earnest melodrama uses backstage-musical conventions to juice an awkwardly told tale of music's power to heal old wounds. The film lurches from goofy "Hey, kids, let's form a band!" cliches to scenes filled with overwrought weeping and rending of garments, but the utterly gorgeous music helps keep it afloat.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A fatal bus accident affects two generations of South Indian families in this music-driven melodrama. 1984: Gifted singer Swarnalatha (Shabana Azmi), schooled in the classical carnatic tradition, persuades her friend, amateur violinist Vaishnavi (Ranjani R… (more)

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