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India Lockdown Review: Tone-Deaf

By SUKANYA VERMA
December 02, 2022 09:08 IST
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India Lockdown has way too much carnal pleasure on its mind to focus on minor things like coronavirus, sighs Sukanya Verma.

It was only a matter of time before film-makers would scramble to make movies around the pandemic.

Already Web series and anthologies like The Gone Game, Unpaused, Feels like Ishq and the moody Malayalam thriller Aarkkariyam have tapped on its dramatic potential to tell stories of paranoia, death, mismanagement and isolation born out of the COVID-19 aftermath.

But it takes special talent like Director Madhur Bhandarkar's to treat a nightmarish, medical and social phenomenon that brought the world to a standstill like a hurdle in the path of people dying to get laid in his horribly oversexed script.

Bhandarkar's offensively bad and exploitative India Lockdown (although its purview is limited to Mumbai), co-written by Amit Joshi and Aradhna Sah, trivialises a crisis that's still not officially over, to rustle up a drama that's neither heartfelt nor in-depth.

 

It's the first quarter of 2020 and India's lockdown is underway when a prostitute (Shweta Basu Prasad) engages in phone sex to keep her shop going, an air hostess (Aahana Kumra) interrupts a college-going couple's plans to do hanky-panky, a senior citizen (Prakash Belawadi) prepares to visit his pregnant daughter (Hrishita Bhatt) in Hyderabad while an immigrant Bihari family (Prateik Babbar, Sai Tamhankar) in Dharavi is forced to return home on foot.

Instead of feeling a sense of looming dread or panic, it's the lewd tone of some of these interactions and clumsy jokes about Chinese food and folks Bhandarkar is preoccupied with.

Everybody goes through the motions conveying emotions like a news bulletin the makers flipped through under the pretext of research.

Words like 'social distancing' are tossed, COVID-testing is demonstrated, even banana bread finds a mention but India Lockdown's simplistic account remains completely oblivious to both -- the stillness or comic chaos -- of quarantine life.

Hordes of people suddenly out of work, walking back to their native villages with their families and belongings drew a devastating picture of migrant exodus but in Bhandarkar's tone-deaf vision, it's an occasion for lustful men to hit on a woman with a bruised ankle.

SOS tweets will move you more than the so-called adversities of India Lockdown.

Even the best of actors have no shot against such shabby writing.

Sai Tamhankar is too good for this shlock while Prateik Babbar confuses perplexed face for pathos.

Prakash Belawadi has a credible air about him. but whether he is hypochondriac or struggling solo, he cannot say.

Aahana Kumra's attempts to get all Mrs Robinson around a gawky teenager fall flat on its face.

Finally, there's Shweta Basu Prasad playing the bawdy prostitute with inordinate amounts of cheer. Between her getting a geriatric to wank off on the phone and faking orgasms while muttering obscenities, India Lockdown has way too much carnal pleasure on its mind to focus on minor things like coronavirus.

India Lockdown streams on ZEE5.

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SUKANYA VERMA / Rediff.com