A complex allegorical tale of sisterly bond from Vishal Bhardwaj carries the genius of the acclaimed filmmaker, but doesn’t serve the purpose
Vishal Bhardwaj over the years has created a niche for himself, in a way that his works speak many folds more than what is seen. What has happened hitherto that symbol isms and connotations raised the cinematic quality of the film to a great deal. But the same can’t be said in case of Pataakha. Of course it’s a story told in a very unconventional way by means of hidden connotations, but ultimately the average viewer remains alienated.
Set in a small village of Rajasthan, the story revolves around Champa Kumari aka Badki (Radhika Madan) and her sister Genda Kumari aka Chhutki (Sanya Malhotra), who are always on fighting terms with each other. In fact they find peace only at war. Tensed is their father (Vijay Raaz) who tries to instill some sense in them. How their lives take a turn when they get married (analogy: separated) is what the drama is about.
Written by Bhardwaj himself based on the story Do Behnein by Charan Singh Pathik, its a simple story of sibling bond, involving quarrels, fights, hatred, love- all mixed together. What makes this story unique is the hatred among sisters is extremely brutal. They slap, punch, and kick each other with no inhibitions whatsoever, that too in the highest level of crudeness.
Why do they fight so much?- you would ask. As a dialogue in the film says- why do India Pakistan fight so much? Now the analogy here is pretty straight forward. The entire film is a comment on the socio-political situation of the country, with a feeling that the two neighboring countries can’t get enough of the enmity with each other.
While Bhardwaj asks you to watch the film with this political perspective, its asking for a bit too much. The routine screenplay follows the sisters and their story and to be able to link them to countries, you require your mind to function at a deeper level, not always possible. What happens as a result is that you don’t understand what the makers want you to, and likewise you don’t care for the sisters too much in the process. To add to it, you also have to decipher what other characters mean on the larger front. Not a cakewalk.
Symbolism are too many, indirectly linked to the political scenario of today, which get more intellectual by the time the plot reaches climax. For those who don’t get those meanings at all, it remains a regular story of sisters, not highly enjoyable even alone.
The execution is both interesting at times and lethargic at some. While the film begins on a high note and you are all pumped up, things seem to get repetitive eventually. There will be a section of audience who’ll wait for the film to end eagerly.
What is enjoyable in this 136 mins film are the dialogues and the accent of all the players. Bhardwaj has made sure you get the raw, rustic feel of the place not just by their actions, but also by the way they emote things. Full marks for making the film rooted never ever going away from the main theme. Geel-Sookh way of toss is interesting. It gives you the real connect.
With love between the sisters subtly woven into the screenplay, the film also aims to touch your hearts.
Sanya Malhotra and debutante Radhika Madan are simply spot on. They are too good to believe. Not just their sparkling chemistry, but their individual performances are actually at par. Bet you’ll have a tough time deciding who’s better. They are so good that you forget they are actors. Its important that their names be taken together for its a film belonging to both equally. Hats off to them also to physically transform them for post interval sequences.
Vijay Raaz is magnificent. You feel his helplessness shown in a rather humorous way and you laugh loud at his condition. You actually pity him. It’s a tough role, but may be not for an actor like Raaz. A job supremely done.
Sunil Grover as Dipper, the neighbor has a very important and strong role. Although his role doesn’t contribute directly, but it is him who brings twists in the plot. The story is told through Dipper’s perspective making him the unsung hero. What a job done by Grover! He makes a lasting impression with his perfect act. Indeed, it couldn’t have been better.
Namit Das, Abhishek Duhan, Saanand Verma have all showed their mettle and fine display of skill in the special roles they had.
Music by Bhardwaj is just okay not contributing greatly to the plot. Ek Tero Balma is better than the other, majorly given its sweet choreography. Lyrics by Gulzar are meaningful, but again they don’t add much value. Background score is quite good and in certain places, moves you.
Cinematography by Ranjan Palit is decent, could have been better. The compositions and shots including framing could have been employed for better comprehension.
Editing by A. Sreekar Prasad is satisfactory. Nothing to shout about. Production design by Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray is excellent and must be appreciated well. The look of the film is enriching.
Pataakha is an earnest attempt given the maker and his psyche. But on the larger front, it falls short of convincing the audience for the story and cinematic qualities the film carries. What you see- acting, sets, costumes, etc is enjoyable. What you can’t see- symbolism’s, connections with politics, etc alienates you.