If it hadn't been for this post, I honestly would not have been compelled to re-visit Lekin (1990, dir: Gulzar, starring Vinod Khanna and Dimple Kapadia) - and end up considering it a favorite film of mine. Having seen it as a young child, I found myself conflating Lekin along with another Dimple Kapadia film set in Rajasthan, Rudaali (1994, dir: Kalpana Lajmi); both films have incredible, haunting music and great performances by Dimple. Yet, when I originally watched them, I was still to appreciate the nuances of both and it also meant that afterwards, whenever I was to read/hear any reference to Lekin or Rudaali, I would routinely bracket them together...although I now realise they have largely little in common apart from Dimple, Rajasthan, and good music.
Lekin revolves around an archeologist, Sameer (Vinod Khanna), who is dispatched to a town in Rajasthan to sort out the belongings of its erstwhile Maharaja; he then encounters a mysterious woman, Reva (Dimple Kapadia)throughout his journey and it is strongly suggestive that she is a spirit, trapped in the interstices of time, awaiting liberation - and she has come to Sameer for help. Thus, rather than being a mere ghost story, it is more of an existential examination of life.
By now, regular readers or even stray visitors to this blog may have realised my overriding love for Rajasthan - and one might be tempted to presume rhat my admiration for Lekin is largely due to the fact that it is set in Rajasthan. While admittedly conceding this fact, I also have to point out that I am equally drawn towards ghost stories and the ruins, dunes, and stark, abandoned ruins of forts and homes of Rajasthan offer the perfect backdrop for them. In fact, after watching Lekin, I was surprised that I never further bothered to find out about the film even though one of its songs, 'Yaara Seeli Seeli' is a favorite.
Yaara Seeli Seeli...
While a compelling, and admittedly, rather abstruse and deeply philosophical film, I share a more visceral connection with it. Lekin is deeply evocative of Rajasthan and that too, specifically, the Rajasthan winter: it is almost as if you can smell the cold. Coupled with Hridayanath Mangeshkar's haunting (literally apt for a ghost-story themed film) music, I find myself yearning for Rajasthan winters: the brilliant yet cool sunlight, the blue skies, the eerie desolation of the desert, where anything and everything is possible...even ghosts emerging from the scrub. It's for that reason that I prefer the first half of the film and which I find particularly chilling, as good ghost stories ought to do.
Sometimes, a film can become a bridge of nostalgia and yearning, especially when a place is concerned and you know you will not be returning to it for a while. For me, Lekin is a film that perfectly captures the essence of a place, so much so that you need only to touch the screen and feel the sunwarmed historical stones or feel the knife-cold winter breeze during the night. Like Rewa, the ghost, we spectators too are invisible beings travelling through this world through the medium of cinema.