Shameem Akthar reviews the Marathi film Sadarakshanaay. Post YOUR reviews here!
A fantastic film that simply has to be viewed. Its powerful moments scratch into our conscience. It not only throws up questions, but also offers answers.
The film's messages are enduring. It salutes women. It salutes the uniform of those who have taken the oath to protect us from crime. It salutes courage under extreme challenges. It salutes integrity in standing up for what is right, under extreme provocation. Most movingly, it salutes simple gestures of humanity, where all of us have a choice of offering support to what is right over what is wrong.
From being a mild and pretty, multi-tasking housewife who can whip up a satisfying breakfast to her transformation as a super-cop who shoots to kill, actress Manasi Salvi (as ACP Vidya Pandit) is outstanding and entirely convincing. In every frame, your eyes are glued to her: Her body language is impeccable, superb, conveying the sudden shifts in persona she is required to take. As in that scene where she is commuting as a content, sari-clad mother to her child's parent's day celebrations and suddenly leaps out to become a taut encounter cop who must chase a wanted criminal. She morphs from one role to another so swiftly, with a mere lift of an eyebrow or the crack of a hard hand against hardened cheeks. The burden of the entire film, its most moving moments, fall on her. She seems to carry it lightly, neatly. Brilliantly.
Other outstanding performances are by Bharat Ganesh Pure as the home minister who generates the right amount of unctuousness of the opportunistic politician, trying desperately to cover up his slyness under media glare. His projection of the interfering politician provides the right touch of villainy, as the bad gets pitted against the good. Oftentimes a badly portrayed villain can dumb down the story, even a serious one, to mere slapstick. But Bharat Ganesh Pure prevents that from happening with the nuanced portrayal of what has become a caricature in our movies: the bad politician.
Suhita Thatte, as the mother-in-law Manda Pandit, is equally brilliant. Her sly digs and her outright anger at her daughter-in-law's demanding job -- in all that she does a subtle characterisation of that most dreaded character in our joint family: the Indian mother-in-law. But when she shifts allegiance, from her son who lets down her simple middle-class values to her daughter-in-law who upholds them, she knocks us down with the sheer strength of her performance. That moment of transition is one of the most moving moments in the entire film.
Bal Dhuri's gentle performance as the mild but strongly supportive father-in-law Vasant Pandit is very touching. He is the voice of most of the audience, as it moves with the turbulence of Vidya Pandit's life and career. He is the gentle voice of wisdom, integrity and support that the movie wants the rest of us to have, towards those who have tough choices.
The character of the husband Pushkar Pandit (played by Tushar Dalvi) has been stitched together superbly. Dalvi brings a certain theatrical projection to the character, as did Sagar Talashikar (who plays inspector Milind). Shishir Sharma is effective as the understated, supportive police commissioner.
The screenplay is brilliant because it tells a strong story simply. It uses simple moments to deliver hard-hitting social punches: of why a woman is routinely not appreciated in her many roles. For instance, where the little boy Shubham Pandit (played by Master Rahul Phalke, who shines in certain scenes) playfully criticises his mother for not reading his homework as fast as his dad usually does, Vasant Pandit mildly rebukes him with the observation that his mother is also cooking the family's breakfast as she reads his homework.
Such moments string the entire film together, moments which show how a supportive husband is needed to prop a strong career woman; a supportive boss is needed to help the juniors make the crucial decisions; also, of how we need to support the theory of what we preach with what we do. For instance, when the juniors are reprimanded for acting out of turn, Vidya Pandit gently reminds her boss that she was merely practising what he (her boss) had advised during her training!
A few jarring points in the story:
Vidya Pandit continues to investigate the crime despite the fact of her husband's involvement. This, as in other free countries, would not be legally or constitutionally acceptable. But you can see that the story required this, to show that she was fair despite investigating her husband.So, this was an expediency the story needed.
The other point is where the husband gets knocked over by a speeding vehicle. In Mumbai where the traffic modestly accommodates even jaywalkers, you cannot imagine a speeding vehicle ramming into a crime scene where one man is facing so many cops, all holding guns. Again, you can see that if the husband did not die that way, it brings in other moral knots that can get very tricky to untangle. Especially when the story is winding up fast. So, again that accident was an inevitable expediency. It is something you can overlook in the moral momentum of the film, where the strong woman exposes her soft side.
The story turns around mid-way (telling it here would rob you of the thrill of discovering it for yourself) from being a family drama to a thriller, almost. It has all the required masala for a film: criminals, villains, good-versus-bad tussle, lots of fights and shooting. The swift turn of events keeps you gripped to the film. No wonder Vikram Labhe, who wrote the story, did not see any need for songs. The story holds up on its own.
It also warns against how we may end up rationalising our greed and lose our integrity. Here again, mid-way, the story switches its focus powerfully -- from moral choices in our simple moments, to morality under extreme duress and under more larger questions. This is rather powerful because its shows a lot of us up: on how we can be good in little moments but fail when we are faced with larger questions, as does the husband.
It has been a while that a movie could draw as much tears as this film did. Tears for all those messages that we want to hear repeated simply because these are the messages that this country so desperately needs, as it stands fragilely on the cusp of becoming a super nation. Somewhere, entwined in that simple story, is that longing, that we think right. And then follow it up, with doing what is right. And that we could go there, ahead, to a greater glory, if we hang on to our ideals, in our simple moments.