It is a long-delayed film but one that comes with its own baggage of silent merit. "The Hangman" hinges on a rather heart-wrenching irony. A noble hangman called Shiva (Om Puri) must finally execute the son on whom hinges his whole hope of the future.
Tragically, this executioner`s tale suffers from a linguistic anomaly. For some strange and inexplicable reason, the characters located in a Maharashtrian village speak in English. Their clipped, self-conscious accent jars and reduces the impact of the powerful drama by alienating the characters from the words they speak.
Om Puri, playing a character apparently inspired by real life, is in emotional form as the doting father of an earnest son who, stereotypically, is spoilt and ruined by the `big bad city`. The opposition of values between rural and city life is done with a simplistic yet sincere flourish.
The story could have done with a less pedantic treatment. The characters are almost parabolic. The hangman Shiva`s wife is named Parvati (played by Smita Jaykar) and the son, believe it or not, is named Ganesh! There begins the tormenting tale on migration from the villages and its ruinous aftermath.
There`s a touching core to Shiva`s hopes of getting his son out of the noose into a world of prosperity. This side of the plot needed further nurturing. The father-son sequences, as played out by Om Puri and Shreyas, convey a wealth of warmth, sadly melted down by outdated values and narrative devices.
By the time the narration moves clumsily into the city life to show the urban corruption of the poor rustic Ganesh, the narration embraces the naivete, abandoning any deeper thoughts for a surface-level exploration of the relationship between ambition and guilt. And portraying the city girl (Amrita Bedi) as a toxic influence is the last straw.
Tackling a concept that is thoroughly outdated, "The Hangman" never proceeds beyond conveying the mood of a serious high-school morality play performed with touching earnestness.
It`s the sincerity of Om Puri and Shreyas Talpade`s performances that place this film a peg or two above the trite level. If we add Gulshan Grover`s acting as an upright jailor, "The Hangman" is a bearable depiction of a rustic family`s dreams gone to seed.