Set midway through the 20th century within Trinidad's significant Indian population this is the first film adapted from the work of Nobel-winning author VS Naipaul. Following the death of his father, idealistic teacher Ganesh (Mandvi) strives to become a writer - but instead gains a reputation as a spiritual healer, and finds his fame propelled into national politics. Director Merchant is content to tackle pet issues: social airs, local eccentrics and a fetishised kind of nostalgia. The story begins via the memory of an Anglo-Indian Oxford student, 'cured' in childhood by Ganesh. The film's comic talent spans Mandvi and Sanjeev Bhaskar, speaking in unsteady patois as a boorish neighbour, both of whom share a background in stand-up, and veterans like Zohra Segal and Om Puri, who delivers indignant melodrama as Ganesh's unscrupulous father-in-law. But fitful gags and some clever incidental detail (a steel drums version of Carmina Burana on the radio; a gaudily ostentatious government dinner) can't compensate for the plot's lumpen pace.
The Mystic Masseur
Cast and crew