Madhur Bhandarkar’s latest offering Indu Sarkar hit the theatres today. Unike his previous films, the National Award winning filmmaker ventured into a new domain- a political thriller set against the backdrop of Emergency. The film invited the wrath of Congress, the current opposition party that was in power under Indira Gandhi during those turbulent months. Following Supreme Court’s refusal to stay the film and the Censor Board agreeing to give a clearance but not without a few cuts, the Kirti Kulhari starrer is finally out for public view.
When the film was announced, it was thought that Bhandarkar would be taking direct postshots at late prime minister Indira Gandhi, who ‘advised’ the then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to proclaim Emergency citing threat to internal security. But the filmmaker has tread the path very cautiously so as to not offend any section of the political class. The much-awaited film opens with police jeeps raiding a village along Delhi-Haryana border soon after the Emergency is proclaimed. The khaki-clad cops were ordered to round off men from the area for vasectomy (nasbandi or sterilisation) drive (a Sanjay Gandhi initiative). Men hide and are compelled to send women of the households to deal with the errant policemen who resort to force.
Cut to Indu (Kirti Kulhari), a dutiful housewife whose husband is an ambitious civil servant with close links to union minister Om Rai. Indu is a girl raised in an orphanage who struggles because of her speech impairment. Navin Sarkar (Tota Roy Chowdhury) is a migrant from Kolkata who aims to become rich and powerful, while Indu is content at being an ‘achchi biwi’. Meanwhile, Rai reports to Chief (Neil Nitin Mukesh), a wily leader who happens to be the son of the Prime Minister, who referred to here as Mummy. The filmmaker’s reluctance in directly referring to the mother-son duo of Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay is indeed surprising as the party is not even currently in power. Well, Chief is a no-nonsense leader who has no qualms deriding his associates for laxity in work.
Meanwhile, Indu is leading a normal life until the day when she witnesses police action on protesters opposing the demolition of Turkman Gate in Old Delhi. She rescues two children and brings them home, much to the ire of her husband who is a part of the demolition drive by the government. Ideologies clash and Indu finds herself pitted against her better half.
Madhur Bhandarkar definitely deserves a mention for his attempt to touch upon the controversial event of Emergency. There is are references to forceful sterilisation, press censorship, illegal detentions through MISA and even banning of Kishore Kumar’s songs. As far as the performances are concerned, Kirti Kulhari completely owns this 2-hour long film. She seamlessly transitions from dutiful wife to a resilient poet, ably supported by Chowdhury who essays the role of her husband in the film. The highlight of the movie is the confrontation between the duo over the children rescued during the police action. Not many of us know that it is her second film on the Emergency after San’ 75 Pachattar that is yet to see light of the day.
It seems that Bhandarkar was too wary about the political repercussions it would have on directly taking on the Congress party. But in process of walking on such a refrained path, he erred on a few aspects. Neil Nitin Mukesh, whose character strongly resembles Sanjay Gandhi has been rendered underutilised in the film. The actor did look quite convincing in his role but deserved greater screen time. Even Supriya Vinod, who portrays Indira Gandhi was more visible in the trailer than is in the film. Plus, the movie lacked explanations and descriptions, like in the case of the ban on Kishore Kumar which was instead reduced to a passing reference.
Nevertheless, you can watch this film over the weekend to enjoy Kirti Kulhari being a flicker of hope of resistance against what is derided as the darkest days of our democracy.
Watch the film’s trailer here.
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