By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | April 12, 2017

Rating: 4.5 / 5


The essence: Mumbai Varanasi Express is a ride you will never forget. It’s a 30-minute lesson in living, loving and leaving!

Very few films have you pondering and wondering over the many endings that could have been. Mumbai Varanasi Express, a short film by debutant director Aarti Chhabria, falls into that category. The moment the film ends is when you play out scenes in your mind on how you could have ended it. In fact, towards the end, when you do feel that this is it [this is how it will end], the film continues for a few more seconds… and then ends!

Mumbai Varanasi Express is a ride you will never forget. It’s a 30-minute lesson in living, loving and leaving!

It’s brilliant. It’s awesome. It’s fantastic. It’s what Mukti Bhawan (Hotel Salvation) should have been but wasn’t. The soul was missing in that film, and in case you missed it there, do log in to who have launched it on their digital platform and youtube.

The screenplay, dialogues, sound design (Resul Pookutty) and the beautiful song Babaji by Kailash Kher all blend to bring out that essence of life which we are so restlessly running around to seek in this mad rush called living.

And just when we think we have arrived, is when we realize how far behind we really are from our actual destination. There are many connotations one can derive from this short film and therein lies the beauty. Aarti Chhabria has fleshed out the mature writing of Vipul K Rawal like a seasoned pro.

There is no spoon-feeding here and no over-lingering on a particular scene to send the message across to the viewer. You have to be involved in every scene and this is what makes the journey on Mumbai Varanasi Express even more inspiring and compelling. One simple scene whilst eating jalebis with a news item staring at the protagonist from the oily piece of paper sets the ball rolling in the reverse.

Krishnakant Jhunjhunwala (Darshan Jariwala) finds himself boarding the train to Varanasi to spend the last few months of his life, awaiting his death. He is suffering from the last stage of colon cancer. Death is inevitable. But after a month’s stay, when he is not taken out on four shoulders (that is the rule at Mukti Bhawan), he has to walk out. He finds shelter at another location with the help of the cycle rickshaw driver, who is now his friend.

Jhunjhunwala is no ordinary Indian. He is the founder of a Rs 1500 crore business empire. He walks away leaving a letter in his cupboard for his family. He wants to move away from the ‘noise of life’.

For a year (before he stumbles on the news item), he lives in the best of health and is in fact ‘healthier than before’. Gone is the stress of everyday boardroom meetings and important ‘turnover’ talks. He is stress-free and is having the time of his life. There is also a spring in his stride!

He then makes that ‘decision’ that changes everything for him!

Chhabria has shown a rare maturity in handling such a complex subject that could have so easily turned out to be preachy. As a matter of fact, she keeps it plain and simple and stirs that something within your soul.

The best part of this film is that it keeps you figuring out ways of what Jhunjhunwala could/should have done, the route he could/should have taken and the life he could/should have lived towards the end.

Jhunjhunwala could be you! What would you do if you were Jhunjhunwala? Would you have boarded the Mumbai Varanasi Express, a second time?

Producer: Aarti Chhabria
Director: Aarti Chhabria
Star Cast: 
Darshan Jariwala, Shekhar Shukla, Vivek Singh,  Gopal Gurjar,  Master Ansh Tiwari

Also Read: Strumming their pain with his fingers…

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