Film

Film

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India’s official entry for this year’s Foreign Language Oscar, Shwaas takes a potential hot-button premise—the callous indifference of the Indian medical bureaucracy toward the lower classes—and dramatizes it in the most shameless way possible. Indigent farm boy Paarsha (Ashwin Chitale) is dying of a one-in-a-million form of eye cancer, and a wealthy physician (Sandeep Kulkarni) must operate immediately, rendering the child blind. (Easily distracted by his cell phone and the Start menu on his computer, the doctor even smirks when he gives the diagnosis.) It’s difficult to empathize with the boy’s grandfather (Arun Nalawade), who would seem to prefer Paarsha dead to sightless. Beginning with a prolonged consent-form signing and climaxing with an overwrought, synth-heavy anesthetization, Shwaas milks every moment of surgical prep for maximum bathos. At least musical numbers are tastefully absent.