Morning Raga is a simple plot really very well told. Morning Raga tells the story of Swarnalatha (Shabana Azmi), a gifted Carnatic classical singer, whose ambitions of performing in the city gets thwarted because of a ghastly accident on the bridge that connects the village to the city. In this accident, she loses her son and Vaishnavi, the one who plays the violin. Swarnalatha holds herself responsible for the tragedy and now spends her time in a self-imposed exile, never daring to cross the bridge.
Twenty years have passed now and her friend's son grown up son Abhinay (Prakash Rao) returns to her life. Not satisfied with his job as a jingle composer, Abhinay sets out to start his own music band. Priyanka (Perizaad Zorabian), a city bred girl, finds herself drawn into the same village since she is also affected by the tragedy. Her father, driving the car that hit the bus in which Shabana was travelling, was responsible for the accident. Abhinay and Priyanka start a music group, but soon realize that something is missing. Abhinay bumps into Swarnalatha in his village and persuades her to sing for his group. She turns down the offer initially, but relents subsequently.
Morning Raga rests on a simple plot and the rustic setting in the village of Andhra Pradesh is beautiful. The film is visually striking and does possess poignant moments. Sequences like Shabana Azmi dares to cross the bridge for the first time after twenty years, but not mustering the courage to do so, is brilliantly executed. The director Mahesh Dattani deserves credit for handling the subject with utmost sensitivity. The cinematography by Rajiv Menon is breathtaking. The music composed by Mani Sharma, though Carnatic is really nice. The singers are also formally trained actual Carnatic singers.
Morning Raga clearly belongs to Shabana Azmi, who delivers an award-worthy performance as usual. Prakash Rao is a revelation. The actor matches up to Shabana and does a first-rate job. Perizaad Zorabian seems to be evolving as an actress, probably being the next Nandita Das. She catches you completely unaware with an efficient interpretation. Lillette Dubey is once again lovable. The Tamil actor Nasser is, like always, highly competent.
On the whole, Morning Raga is a genuinely different piece falling in the parallel cinema mould. The film is a brilliant piece of work with the actors giving their best. Morning Raga is a film that will only appeal to the hardcore parallel cinema devotees. All in all, its a nice story with awesome performances. Its a film that you won't regret wasting money on.