Swara Bhaskar, Sanjai Mishra, Pankaj Tripathi, Ishtiyak Khan
Priya and Sandip Kapur
When Swara Bhaskar’s latest release first made an appearance on social media, it did more than just catch the eye; ‘double-meaning diva, princess of desi-swag’ and Bhaskar herself, what’s not to be impressed? But when expectations are high, there is always the fear of disappointment.
Anaarkali (Swara Bhaskar) is what makes Aarah popular. Her vulgar lyrics and rhapsodic rhythms leave the audience panting for more, and she is no innocent to be ignorant of the racket she creates every time she takes on the stage. In fact, she quite enjoys the chaos she creates, she even thrives in it. Her unapologetic stance of treating her profession as a profession – enjoying its merits but not going into bouts of self-doubt every time her conscience takes over, is what is exhilarating about this film. Yes, she enjoys titillating her audience, not because she is a tease, but because she thinks it is her purpose in life to entertain. It is this quirk of her mind that makes her more innocent to the ways of the world, than she ever realised.
Rudely, Anarkali is reduced from being a celebrated ‘celebrity’ of a small town, to an object of desire that shouldn’t have any say if someone finds ‘it’ desirable, other than perhaps a ‘Thank you’. It is her dehumanizing humiliation caused in the hands of a local politician (Sanjai Mishra) that brings forth the latent strength that was hidden in the confines of gaudy clothing, right into the fore.
It is all Swara and her grip around Anaarkali that makes you feel the jolt of being publicly humiliated right in your seats, despite being in the darkened theatres. Her angst, her hurt, her pain and her strength are all manifested with such precision that it leaves you emotionally drenched. Kudos to Swara and more importantly, Abhishek Das who has written as well as directed the film. It is not always easy to distance yourself from your gender and go deep into the psyche of the opposite. Unlike most male directors who feel satisfied to have merely used the term ‘feminist’ or shown their protagonist smoking and drinking liberally to assume, they do not qualify as progressive - Das is a revelation. He not only ensures that his woman is expressed beautifully, he has also emancipated her from the bondage of labels. There is no slut, there is no prostitute, there are no naach-girls - they are human beings who are meant to be treated with respect and dignity, who have the right to choose and to say no!
So while the director’s vision is noble, his work decent, his actors marvellous – why is it that Anaarkali will not be the talk of the town. Perhaps because everything that has been said and done in the film has been done in one way another in myriad other films. But the points it gains for maintaining dignity and doing complete justice to the character and its actors, it loses in a screenplay that treads towards too predictable in the climax. Pity, cause the expectations from this one were great, and with actors like Swara, Sanjai Mishra and Pankaj Tripati in your kitty, it is like losing a winning battle.
For film buffs who were waiting for this to hit the theatres, the first half with the seductive voices of Rekha Bharadwaj and Swati Sharma, the rustic feel of the indian village and Swara Bhaskar’s unapologetic fervour will make it worth your while.