This noisy affair misfires

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 29 Sep 2018 12:35:07




By Farina Salim Quraishi,

Wild, whimsical and well, weird; that’s Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha in short. For a director who brings alive Shakespearean sagas like no other, Bhardwaj’s adaptation of Charan Singh Pathik’s short story, Do Behenein, though high on the fuse is woefully short on substance. With an equal amount of wit and absurdity - strangely reminiscent of Bhardwaj’s deeply indulgent Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola - Pataakha crackles and sizzles brightly if intermittently; leaving one feeling that it’s a short story stretched too long.

In a small village in Rajasthan, Champa Kumari aka Badki (Radhika Madan) and Genda Kumari aka Chutki (Sanya Malhotra) are the daughters of a mine owner Shanti Bhushan aka Bapu (Vijay Raaz). In a constant struggle to prove their one-up(wo)manship, Champa and Genda cannot stand the sight of each other and fight to kill everytime they get into a fistfight; which happens more frequently than not. It is only after their Bapu (Vijay Raaz) threatens to beat them black and blue with anything handy, that the sisters let up.

The two feisty sisters’ hate-hate relationship and frequent yudhs are also the sole source of entertainment for Dipper (Sunil Grover), a meddlesome neighbour who loves to instigate trouble whenever things get quiet with the sisters.
The elder one, Badki, is besotted with cows and gets along with them amiably enough and harbours dreams of opening her dairy one day. Chutki is more ambitious of the two and wants to study. She yearns to become a teacher in her own school one day. All of their plans go south after Bapu urgently needs Rs 4 lakh to save his mining license. After banks and his brother refuse financial help, Bapu has no option but to marry off one of the sisters to a widowed but wealthy village sleazebag, Patel (Saanand Verma).

The sudden betrothal - decided by tossing a ‘stone’ - takes the sisters by surprise; disrupting their neatly laid out plans. Not one to take things lying down, Badki and Chutki snatch back control of their lives, totally unaware that they are on collision course again, this time for life...

Full marks to the director for keeping the proceedings rustic yet real. There is an unapologetic use of local dialect, an abundance of gaalis - most of which are incomprehensible - and a liberal dose of hinterland humour, with nary a false note. Comedy is subtle and situations authentic, coupled with rustic setting, they go a long way in making the sisters’ world not far removed from our own.

While sibling love and relationships have by and large remained saccharine sweet on the silver screen, Pataakha, however, explores a different brand of sisterly ‘love’- one which is fierce, fiery and formidable. Along with mouthing a rainbow of verbal abuses, both the sisters even have a go at each other physically to display their feelings. They spit, punch, claw, kick, bite and pull at each other’s hair like there is no tomorrow! But underneath all the bashing and cursing is the unmistakable bitter bond they share. The layered story with its single-minded focus on the ruckus shows love in nuanced gestures, which is subtle enough to drown in the ferocious fracas; and drown it does. So much so, that more than the bond it is Badki and Chutki’s quarrels that stay with you after the movie has ended. The near-constant fighting and frequent wordly duels become a strain on the senses and patience wears thin even as the question ‘why’ keeps popping up all through 134-minute drama.

Granted Vishal Bhardwaj’s movies aren’t exactly the prettiest of affairs, but Pataakha takes the raw and rambling quotient through the roof. While village belles need not be the fairest of them all, they aren’t dusty and wild-haired beings either. With teeth stained with beedis and unkempt hair, both the sisters are too dusty and dowdy to be entirely convincing. And what’s with the cows?? While Matru... had a pink one hogging the limelight, here in Pataakha there are several of them in the spotlight, which rankles quite a bit.

While the first part is brisk and effervescent enough, the six-page long story is stretched beyond endurance in the second half. With the movie dragging post-interval and the climax turning out to be a predictable affair, it is the plot which is the weakest link in Pataakha.

Sanya and Radhika are atom bombs of Pataakha and have an amazing onscreen chemistry. They go boom, boom every time they clash on the screen and you visibly flinch from the viciousness of their cat-fights. Radhika Madan makes a confident debut and is flawless as the loud hot-head. Pitch-perfect in all her scenes with a body language to match, Madan plays the quintessential rural girl with a lot of aplomb. Sanya Malhotra jumps from one Dangal into another and aces this one as well. Playing the ferocious and vengeful Chutki with fineness, Malhotra is in top form in her second outing as well.

Sunil Grover playing the mischief-mongering Narad Muni - as addressed by Bapu - shines the brightest as Dipper. Where it is ‘dipping’ his eyes at the most inopportune moments, or using them to convey his glee when his not-so-gleeful plans fall into place, right down to using his crafty expressions make a point, he is a revelation and steals the show. Vijay Raaz has a meaty role and plays it with resigned perfection.

With its core sparking bright, it is the lack of substance that dulls the cracker of a surprising and shocking Pataakha. Go watch, but brace your senses while you are it.

The Hitavada Rating: O O