She is afraid of the seas and hence of the forgotten desires buried deep down her. He is afraid of the mountains and is not sure if he wants to conquer the unknown. Together they are soulmates that they were always searching for. Individually they are so used to their solitude that anything else, though terribly tempting is deeply uncomfortable.
In ONCE AGAIN, director Kanwal Sethi is interested to explore what happens when two individuals who initially connect through food decide to take their relationship beyond that of Saajan‘s and Ila‘s from The Lunchbox, and start seeing each other. But honestly, the surreal chemistry of Amar and Tara is far more sparkling in their pauses and their silent glances, and feels far more intimate in their tentativeness and their hurt than the actual moments of closeness. This story of Amar and Tara has very little happening, but builds out as a story loaded with oodles of warmth and affection.
Writing is not the strongest point of the film, and there are places where the intentional slow pace and paused reflections start to feel over orchestrated, and the overall filmmaking appears too indulgent to be naturally appealing. In spite of that, the film still comes out flavorful and rich in texture on screen primarily because of the terrific actors that both the leads are, and the film is a constant reminder of how underutilized they have been in cinema. Its their wonderfully understated performances that elevates the film from its weak foundation. Shefali Shah dazzles in pretty much every frame she is in and her face is a vibrant canvas of million emotions. She is clearly the showstopper here, but would not have come across so powerful had the terrific Neeraj Kabi not been so charming in all his poise and restraint. Casting them in such an atmospheric romance is a clear winner here. They are ably supported by the talented side cast, but the later have frankly very little to do in a minimally developed script here. Rather the cinematography, the sound design and the background score stand tall and work well together to further enrich the fragrant character of the film.
I have a sense that reactions to this film are going to be polarized and rightfully so, because an unconventional love story like this honestly deserved better writing. But this film will work wonderfully for a few purely because of the atmospherics it is able to establish and the unassuming and irresistible charm of its protagonists in their search for themselves beyond the mundane. Their story deserves a chance, it desires to be loved, and has worked its way to get mine. I will definitely end up watching them Once Again!
Once Again is available for streaming on Netflix.