The Mystic Masseur

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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.

Release details

Duration: 118 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Ismail Merchant
Screenwriter: Caryl Phillips
Cast: Om Puri
James Fox
Aasif Mandvi
Sanjeev Bhaskar
Ayesha Dharkar
Jimi Mistry
Zohra Segal
Sakina Jaffrey
Albert Laveau
Grace Maharaj
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