Never try a father's patience. Thus goes the tag line of Mahesh Manjrekar's Pitaah, his third film with Sanjay Dutt after Vaastav and Kurukshetra.
And so it follows that Rudra [Sanjay Dutt] is a peasant working for Thakur Awadh Narayan Singh [Om Puri] in Shikarpur, a village in North India.
The inhabitants of the village live in eternal fear of the thakur. The reason is a hasty narration in flashback: The thakur's maali's [Sachin Khedekar] city-educated son [Salil Ankola] dares to sing and dance with the thakur's daughter [Anupama Verma]. He must, of course, be punished. So the thakur orders his men to kill him.
Life goes on. The thakur rules and the peasants let him. Meanwhile, the thakur's sons, Bhola and Bachchu, are fully encouraged by their father to follow his ways - alcohol, women and such like.
While the father organizes a mujra [dance performance] at his haveli [mansion] for himself and co-thakurs, the sons go to a kotha [brothel] in Rampur where a new mujrewali [courtesan] is in town. They can't have their way with her. So on their way home, they end up raping a minor who happens to be Rudra's daughter.
The brothers are arrested with evidence. But there's no court case here, thanks to the fact that the lawyer representing the two sons is busy bribing the senior doctor [Anjan Srivastav] at the dispensary and the daroga [Jackie Shroff].
Rudra, encouraged by his wife Paro [Nandita Das], decides to take matters into his hands when he realizes they will not get justice in the court of law.
The film is titled Pitaah. The tag line reads never try a father's patience. I wonder why the director failed to explore the father-child relationship. There are fleeting moments of togetherness in a song or two and that's it.
What it really deals with is the feudal system, a despotic Thakur, a mute wife, a corrupt policeman and an oppressed lot of peasants.
There is more violence in the film than necessary. The dialogues too seem to be written for the front benchers. The mujra organised for the two brothers [while in police custody] at the police station is a little difficult to digest. Worse still, the daroga walks away with the mujrewali at the end of the show!
Most of the songs are totally unnecessary to the narration. The only one worth mentioning is the Sukhvindara Singh rendered Sau baar janam picturised on Rudra while he is planning his revenge.
As far as the performances are concerned Sanjay Dutt as the oppressed peasant gives a restrained performance. In fact, it is sometimes too restrained especially when he is informed about his daughter's rape. Fails to touch the heart.
Nandita Das as the wife and mother has done full justice to her role. The same can't be said about the director. He certainly hasn't done full justice to her talent.
Similiarly with Mita Vashisht. As the Thakur's wife who is witness to all her husband's crimes, she makes the necessary obligatory noises but does nothing till it is too late.
Om Puri is forceful. But he can't be blamed for the shoddy dialogues and weak screenplay.
Jackie Shroff as the greedy policeman who turns in the end soft is just about ok.
The bit about Salil Ankola and Anupama Verma is a totally unnecessary flashback, and very shoddily done. Quite a bit seems to have been cut at the editing table. Their minuscule roles do not allow them to leave any impact at all.
Pitaah does not live up to the mark. Mahesh Manjrekar, yet again disappoints after Tera Mera Saath Rahen and Ehsaas. His subjects might be sensitive and thought provoking but he falters in the execution. The final product seems to be a hurried affair.
He would do well to give a thought to quality work rather than quantity -- what with his penchant for working on five or more films at a time.