STARRING: KRITI KULHARI, NEIL NITIN MUKESH, ANUPAM KHER, TOTA ROY CHOWDHARY
DIRECTOR: MADHUR BHANDARKAR
It is surprising that one of the darkest periods of the Indian democracy was yet to be put on celluloid. Or rather one must say that it was made impossible to touch upon the topic. However, the politics of the country is now much more conducive for a film on the topic yet one must still need to be brave enough to be willing to face the ire of the concerned political parties and the severe backlash. For that Bhandarkar gets full marks for choosing a topic which was made to be a taboo to discuss. However, the ace filmmaker fails to stay true to this very important event and the result is a film which ultimately feels like a total cop out.
One can fully understand the constraints of writing a film on such a subject. Bhandarkar has ambitious intentions commenting on the events of the time but he holds back his punches. So much so that the Emergency merely becomes a shallow prop which is used to just sell the movie. It is at best a severely watered down account of a real life event which is further muddled down by an uninteresting fictional plot. It almost feels like one fine day Bhandarkar thought of a title which sounded interesting and smart but got completely lost when it came to developing a full length screenplay for the film.
The first half has two parallel tracks running. One is that of the state of emergency in the country and another the journey of an orphan named Indu Sarkar. Bhandarkar tries to juggle the parallel tracks but clearly the focus is on the protagonist. Unfortunately, the protagonist is terribly cliched and boring. Her story just does not appeal to you mostly because of a lackluster journey and slow execution. You never really get involved with the character because the transition between the two plots is so haphazard. Other than a few interesting moments with the “Chief”, the first half is quite a bore.
The second half merges the two tracks but the evolution of the character never comes through. The Emergency finally becomes the focus of the film but too much melodrama and usual Bollywood tropes completely dampen the affect. If you think the protagonist is ill defined then the rest of the characters fair even worse. They are mere caricatures especially Nanaji and the team who are important to the plot. Their fight never really involves you because you never really know who they are. You are not really bored by the proceedings but it leaves you completely unaffected.
Bhandarkar tries to avoid his usual style of narration although you would find some hangover of it in parts. His eye for detail in recreating the era is splendid and has given the film an incredibly authentic look. How one wishes that he would have given the same attention to the plot and the characters. He fails to engage in the first half and the usual melodrama and need to sensationalize gets the better of him which is so not expected out of director of his caliber and record. There are moments where he does show a glimpse of the fearless director he once was but mostly just tries to manipulate the viewers into ignoring the lack of what was promised by him.
Kriti Kulhari does great in fulfilling the responsibility of taking on the weight of the film and carrying it on her shoulders. She does everything that is expected of her and does not disappoint. However, she cannot rise above the murky script. Tota Roy is brilliant as the ambitious husband. Neil Nitin Mukesh is easily the best thing in the film however, he is criminally wasted by Madhur Bhandarkar. Rest of the cast have nothing much to do and are functional.
The music is nothing to be talked about except for the recreated qawwali which is impressive.
If you want to know false advertising, just look at the above poster of Indu Sarkar. It pretends to be a political thriller which gives you an insight into the times of Emergency. However, the content is shallow and uninteresting and offers nothing more than what you could not have easily gathered from the headlines of the time. Disappointing.