Morning Raga has everything you expect from it: some great music and camera-work, actors who understate appropriately, and a plot that's sentimental without being slushy. Beyond that, there's nothing much to sink your teeth into. You're shaken some and stirred some, but once you leave the theater the effect ebbs away easily. A little too easily.
Swarnalata (Shabana Azmi) is a Carnatic singer, a woman of healthy ambitions. But when her longtime dream of performing in the city ends abruptly in a road accident, her own ambition becomes repulsive to her. And added to that burden is guilt and bereavement, as her son and best friend die in the accident on the bridge. Swarnalata soon comes to regard this bridge as a symbol of her loss, and punishes herself by never attempting to cross it again.
But even tucked away in a little town in West Godavari, Swarnalata's voice manages to get spotted. And there couldn't be a more apt seeker than Abhinay (Prakash Rao), the son of her deceased best friend. Abhinay is a musician who's having some trouble putting his fusion band together. But his luck changes when he almost gets run over by upbeat yuppie, Pinky (Perizaad Zorabian).
Pinky lends the troubled composer a room, a shoulder and a ear, and sure enough, they fall in love. Their music, however, isn't doing as good. What it needs is a voice, a strong element of Carnatic to give it its flavor and purge it of mediocrity. And who better to infuse life in Abhinay's music, but the friend of his much loved mother, Swarnalata.
Old fears, however, don't lie still for very long. Twenty years after the accident, Swarnalata is still haunted by it and crossing that bridge has now become impossible. So Pinky comes to live with her and learn the intricacies of Carnatic music. The proximity of the young musicians, and their thriving passion for music, brings Swarnalata closer to them and her past.
The story is a simple enough one. It is about facing fears that we live our lives around, and about making peace with the past, wherever that might be. Morning Raga goes the distance, but its steps are too deliberate and it offers no unexpected panoramas. Clean, warm and well-told; but missing that necessary element of human messiness.