Shyam Benegal is one of the finest Indian filmmakers and when he decides to make a comedy, it is good enough reason to watch it.

Welcome To Sajjanpur is a refreshing change from the mindless urban comedy as it is set in contemporary rural India and has characters who should not only keep you chortling along but also give some food for thought.

Message in comedy

Benegal shows how the medium of cinema can be used to send a subtle message in an entertaining manner.

Mahadev (Shreyas Talpade), an aspiring novelist, earns a living by writing letters sitting next to a village post office.

It is his skill that makes him popular with the illiterate population of his hamlet.

It is through his letter-writing that we come across quirky characters such as a wily politician (Yashpal Sharma), a medical assistant (Ravi Kishan) in love with a widow (Rajeshwari Sachdev), a superstitious mother (Ila Arun) of a strong-headed daughter (Divya Dutta) and some more delightful characters.

But the meatiest character belongs to Mahadev's childhood sweetheart, Kamla (Amrita Rao), who frequently sends letters to her husband whom she has not seen in four years.

Scheme hilarious

Mahadev uses his skills in a scheming and amusing manner to work things out for his personal benefit — and sometimes for the welfare of his village.

The film works due to its simplicity and authentic use of a dialect. You enjoy listening to the well-written dialogues though it can be a hindrance to some who are not acquainted with such colloquialisms.

Benegal cleverly touches on social issues such as caste and religious differences, widow remarriage and corruption.

The best part is that you don't feel these issues are forced.
There was sufficient scope to delve more into the film's quirky characters, had Benegal not chosen to focus only on the Mahadev-Kamla romance.

Good performances

Talpade does justice to his well-etched out character. His body language, comic timing and range of emotions are superb.

And there is something about Rao — whenever she is presented as a simple girl, she leaves a mark. Sharma's act and his dialogue-delivery bring a smile on your face. Arun is hilarious while Kishan is delightful.

But the film could have done without the boring songs.

Abdulla Mahmood is a UAE-based freelance writer