Review by Idiosyncratic Fallout (March 25, 2006)
A rare Indian movie in that rarest of genre.. the genre of the absurd. Cinema where real people and situations are juxtaposed with the mystical and the whacky to form a dizzying flurry of sound and images that is at once other-worldly and yet right-next-door. Think of the wicked bizzare satirical humor and middle-class melancholy of "Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron" mashed up with the flamboyant images, verbal lash, downright whackiness and surprising mysticism of Kiran nagarkar's great Indian novel "Ravan and Edie" and you get the wonder that is "Herbert".
A little bizzare epic, the movie chronicles and critiques society from pre-Independence to Independence, the Communist wave, the turbulence of the emergency, to the globalization of the country by following protagonist "Herbert" from birth to adolescense to when he becomes a "medium" to his premature death. Think of it like a Forest Gump if Gump was a manic-depressive, sad, lonely, scrawny eccentric instead of a cloyingly cute congenital dumbass.
And while the movie intends to be metaphorical, it avoids keeping the audience at a distance by showing some real heart in scenes between "Herbert" and his aunt and his romantic interlude with the girl next door and the death of his friend and nephew. The scene where a drunked Herbert comments on the sadness of the world is exceptionally heart-wrenching. A moment of beautiful fragile melancholy.
The only flaw is that the movie drags fifteen minutes too long and sometimes gets too clever for it's own good. But hey.. better a "smartass" than a "dumbfuck"
Visually and thematically audacious, literate, incisive, layered, angry, vibrant.. "Herbert" is a rare gem in Indian Cinema.
In the words of herbert- "Cat, Bat, Water, Dog, Fish".. it may not always make sense, but in that chaos lies it's true meaning.
I cannot imagine I'll be seeing a better film this year.
"Herbert" is a classic.