Madhur Bhandarkar’s Indu Sarkar begins, drags, and ends. Only 10 minutes later, I’ve forgotten at least 70 percent of the film. Scratching my head and recollecting bits and pieces, I mostly wonder why the Congress party was so afraid of a film that left one so unmoved?
Talks of propaganda were doing the rounds. Conspiracy theories, too, that perhaps someone from the ruling party funded this “anti-Congress” movie. So naturally, any critic who trashes this film, is likely to be called a Congress supporter and their intellect compared to Rahul Gandhi’s.
But nothing can change the fact that this film is a haphazard bunch of scenes cobbled together. Or take away Neil Nitin Mukesh’s jarringly fake forehead.
Set during one of India’s most tumultuous times, Indu Sarkar captures the forced sterilizations, press stifling, and the razing of slums, all told through the eyes of a young poetess, Indu Sarkar.
The film does not name anybody explicitly, even if the resemblance to the real person from history seems uncanny. While there’s one Indu wrecking havoc in the country, there’s another Indu trying to fight, little by little. There are other characters, too. But this is Indu’s story and her road to self-discovery.
Kirti Kulhari plays the subservient-turned-feisty Indu Sarkar, who goes from writing poems, to becoming a housewife, and finally an activist with a mission. Indu’s husband, Naveen Sarkar (Tota Roy Chowdhary), is a prime example of a government servant – follows the big boss’ orders without questioning them, and is determined to rise even if it literally means stepping on a few people.
Things are smooth between husband and wife until she mentions the word ‘Emergency’. He warns her to never say anything against it because she has “no idea” how the government actually “toils” towards the betterment of the country.
The film has two other narratives running – one from the man who runs a despotic rule with his five-point program, and the other from the activists who defy this program and the entire system of the Emergency.
Most of Bhandarkar’s films have a particular quality to it – the trademark hamming by most of the actors, a tawdry depiction of a sensitive issue (like the one in Fashion where Priyanka Chopra’s character woke up visibly disturbed to realise she had slept with a black man the previous night), and dialogues that sound forced and unnatural.
Indu Sarkar, however, shows Bhandarkar hiring better actors, including realistic dialogue, and almost steering away from depicting a serious issue without cheapening it. Almost.
While the quality has improved, the story wavers. Even someone familiar with the Emergency and the main players at the time would find it difficult to keep up with the innumerable characters that crop up. I can only imagine the lost faces of those who don’t have a clue about the 21-months of havoc in the ’70s.
And when that isn’t enough, Bhandarkar concocts a plot with too many complications.
The film focuses on irrelevant bits far too often, especially in the first half. Conversations last longer than they should. Melancholic moments are emphasised with sad music blaring in the background. And too many unnecessary scenes propel Indu’s role as the feisty woman she really is.
It’s lazy writing.
Kirti Kulhari as the stammering Indu practically saves a film that doesn’t really deserve her. It’s also comforting to watch her go from one court room (in Pink last year) to another, doing her best with monologues that make every character around give her a round of applause.
Here, she plays the lead for probably the first time and gives it her best, right from the body language of a stuttering, shy woman to someone who gives it back to her misogynistic husband – only to be let down by the halfheartedly written story.
Another letdown is Neil Nitin Mukesh’s acting. As Sanjay Gandhi, Neil’s make-up reduces him to a caricature of the young politician. He calls his mother ‘mummy’ even in front of his acolytes.
For his look, prosthetics were flown in from abroad and makeup artists spent hours on his face. While the similarity was fairly uncanny, there was the jarring contrast of his forehead looking like it took a vacation in Goa while the rest of his face remained pale. It’s hard to take a character with that face seriously.
The film is two-and-a-half hours long and at times, the mind drifts away from Bhandarkar’s myopic version of the Emergency. In that time, though, one can usefully google information on the actual events took place and read about Sanjay Gandhi and his very Joffrey-from-Game of Thrones like qualities.
The Indu Sarkar review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.