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BENEDICTION (Hindi-Punjabi/Semi-Film) - Breaks the set pattern, establishing a new benchmark for films made with a religious overtone. (Review by Bobby Sing)

06 Aug, 2019 | Movie Reviews / 2019 Releases

In the present decade we have witnessed several short films promoting Sikhism and the Sikh thought of spirituality believing in One Almighty and Humanity made by young talented Sikh directors. But among those, only a few have managed to move above the set format, proving their understanding of the medium and subject as spirited new-age filmmakers with an outstanding blessed potential. 
Writer-director Harjeet Singh Oberoi is not just one of the those few, but deserves to be mentioned as the top most name among them all, because of his exceptional work and distinctive thought process presented in this particular genre. To give you an idea, his works are not interesting in spreading the word about Sikhism relying upon the usual and repetitive loud roars of “Proud to be a Sikh”. He always tries to present the same with a different subtle and relatable perspective which might be melodramatic at times but remains far away from something loud and deafening.
Have loved a few of his previous films like MANAN but haven’t reviewed as they were all short films and had some drawbacks which I preferred to convey directly to the man himself. However, Harjeet’s latest offering BENEDICTION deserves to be written about in details as it has some unique features as well as merits, which have never been witnessed in this specific genre of films made on Sikhism till date, spreading its universal message of humanity.
Firstly, this time Harjeet makes a semi-film kind of big budget project of 50 minutes of duration, which cannot really be considered as a short film. Also, he writes and conceives it with a narrative having a novel suspense element in it too that works pretty well keeping you fairly engaged.
Secondly, BENEDICTION is not the usual Punjabi film with a strong and an all familiar religious tone. The film has a mix of Hindi and Punjabi languages with the former remaining the main language for most of its duration, boldly surpassing the set parameters of the genre. 
Adding to the above, the film even has a decent, melodious, well arranged and sung Hindi spiritual song devoted to Lord Ganesh (the only track in the film) addressing him as DEVA with the words, “Deva, Tum Bin Mera Koi Nahin”. And this one particular addition forces you to give Harjeet some deserving brownie points for showcasing his utmost respect for the other faiths too along with conveying the core message of Sikhism. I really doubt this kind of vision and execution was earlier witnessed in any such films made by a Sikh writer-director without deviating from his basic path and purpose.
Thirdly, as a pleasant surprise, BENEDICTION has all competent actors playing the key roles (giving fine performances) who are neither Sikhs nor are the faces we repetitively keep seeing in such specific ventures. So, this is again probably the first of its kind of film spreading the word about Sikhism without featuring Sikh actors in the lead roles (except Manmeet Singh). 
To be honest, this feature was indeed a relief bringing in some novelty too as here in the Punjabi film industry, mostly a director willingly or unwillingly has to cast the same known faces without much choice. Plus at times he has to include some non-actors in the cast too for various reasons (which unfortunately can also be seen in this film). Thankfully the most famous among the cast, Manmeet Singh gives a very lovable and restrained performance as one of key characters in the script, moving ahead of the typical loud and overdramatic training of the usual Bollywood movies.
Fourthly, apart from having a likable storyline with an interesting element of suspense BENEDICTION is also the first film in this genre incorporating appreciable, quality VFX (visual effects) and CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) in its few sequences, which certainly would have demanded a more than decent budget from the financers. Yes, the sequences using the effects could have also been executed without such expensive additions. But Harjeet chooses not to compromise with his subject and goes for the superior VFX, probably spending the amount in which another short film could have been easily made. However here I would like to strongly support the decision taken by the director, as those sequences do make an impact and do take the film to another level altogether, which would have not been possible without the impressive and well-designed CGI. Interestingly one of this animated sequences also indicates towards an 'out of body experience' pointing towards the deep vision of its director.
Summing up the merits mentioned above, as a semi-film BENEDICTION works really well due to its fresh concept, key performances and technical excellence achieved (inlcuding a fine cinematography and background score), fulfilling it basic purpose – to spread the word about Sikhism beyond the Sikhs reaching out to the masses.
And this vision of taking the message of Sikhism beyond the Sikhs through non-sikh actors and a spiritual song devoted to Lord Ganesh, certainly needs to be supported and applauded wholeheartedly.
Having said that, BENEDICTION does have its own share of shortcomings and could have been an almost perfect work of art - had the director thought of or was allowed to rectify the following drawbacks in its conception.
First of all, the title serves as a demerit since neither the writing explains it in any particular scene nor the promotion clarifies it in some way or the other to the end-user. The tagline says “Awakening of the Soul” which again is in English whereas the film is in Hindi and Punjabi. The word BENEDICTION (meaning a prayer asking for blessings) is certainly not a common or easy word for the general public and I can bet almost 80-90% of the people sitting in the theatre (in its special show) were not aware of its actual meaning or intention. So either the title or the tagline (at least one of them) had to be in the terminology commonly used in both Hindi and Punjabi languages.
Here would boldly like to guess that may be the title was kept as such to actually impress and reach out to the NRI audience in countries other than India, where the film will be widely shown, gaining more attention and reputation with this kind of classy and upbeat phrase. I might be wrong but this is what I pesonally felt after watching it.
Other than the title, the one sequence which takes the film to an avoidable melodramatic zone is the visualisation of the song DEVA wherein a poor lady starts singing it as her individual prayer and suddenly another lady in the neighbourhood also starts lip-synching the song after a while in her own hut. Here the second lady singing the verses is nothing but a formulaic filmy insertion as mostly seen in our Hindi films. Ideally she should have just given the facial expressions as desired, since the song was already being sung by the first lady in her own premises. 
Lastly but most importantly, Harjeet’s BENEDICTION sadly takes a backseat every-time it becomes a promotional advertisement promoting the NGO that has also financed the whole project. The moment we see characters wearing a specific attire (T-shirt) with the logo of an organisation moving in and out of a scene and even speaking dialogues, BENEDICTION ceases to be a feature film losing a lot of its impact.
Now I completely understand that the NGO must have supported the project with a purpose, but that purpose would have fulfilled in a much better manner if they had inserted this promotional activity in between the climax and the end credits introducing their organisation and its vision to the audience. Especially considering the audience, who are not the ones who immediately rush to leave the theatre after a film is over. 
To be exact, a film needs to be made as a film and it should not be disturbed with such forced inclusion of big logos and 'influential actors'. This actually disrupts the whole rhythm of the film as well of its director which clearly shows on screen, because even a fraction of a second movement of the eye ball of a non-actor performing in a scene kills the complete sequence ruining the whole effort being made.
So such projects and talent surely need to be promoted by the capable NGOs, but without interfering in the film’s onscreen conception and visualisation influencing the writer-director. We know the world of glamour and financing a film is indeed a very tempting investment, but that’s exactly where one needs to show maturity and experience without falling into the trap. 
In other words, such promotional activities should ideally be restricted to just a 2-3 minute sequence in the entire film, but repeatedly inserting it in regular intervals throughout the story progression……… truly hurts the film.
In all, BENEDICTION surely deserves a big applause for breaking the set pattern and establishing a new benchmark for films made with a religious overtone. Would specifically like to praise the makers for showing respect for the other faith too, truly representing the basic message of Sikhism and the Sikh Gurus. But at the same time I really wish it was made without the typical limitations.

Saying the last word, somebody give this writer-director, Harjeet Singh Oberoi, the uninteruppted budget he wants for his future projects as God Willing he is not the one who will disappoint.
Rating : 3.5 / 5 (Really wished to give it more but couldn't due to all those forced insertions) 

Tags : BENEDICTION (Hindi-Punjabi) Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, New Semi Film on Sikhism Review by Bobby Sing, Punjabi Religious Films on Sikh faith, Films on Sikhism
06 Aug 2019 / Comment ( 2 )
Baljit Singh

Very honest review...  truly stated about the sponsors...people like me left the theatre without actually seeing the movie as the screening was delayed by almost two hours... I was also thinking the same seeing the title of the film as to what audience would be thinking about the title...

Bobby Sing

(Sorry for the late reply as many comments got hidden due to a technical glitch.)
Thanks Baljit Singh for sharing your honest views.
I agree to it readily.
Do keep visiting and writing in.

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