Madhur Bhandarkar was known for his hard hitting cinema. He was never afraid of either going that extra mile or leave a bad taste in the mouth of his viewers with endings to his films that couldn’t be called exactly pleasing. With films like Chandni Bar, Page 3, Corporate and Traffic Signal, he created a niche for himself in the Bollywood folklore. But over the years, he increasingly seems to be under some strange compulsion to make films that are polar opposites of what he used to make. He seems obsessed with making everyone happy and in that effort he has more than once ended up making films that have not made anyone happy. The latest in that list is Indu Sarkar, a film that I had high hopes from.
Indu Sarkar unfolds during the time of emergency but makes it a point to hammer in the fact that it is a fictional tale in order to stay on the safer side of any and every controversy but still does everything to find parallels with times and people of that period. This is the first oddity that hit me about the film. It tries to be what it denies to be. The name itself “Indu Sarkar” is a clear nod to “Indira Gandhi Sarkar” and is meant to ring that bell. The film chronicles the journey of a stuttering Indu (Kriti Kulhari), a girl who wants to be nothing but a good wife to her seemingly loving husband played by Tota Roy Choudhury.
However, during the demolition of Turkman gate (another reference to a much publicized event of the times of emergency), she finds herself in the thick of the action and ends up rescuing two kids from the mayhem. As she tries to find out the parents of the kids, she unwittingly dwells deeper and deeper into the conspiracy that the emergency seemingly was or atleast what the people on the flip side of it wanted you to believe. She soon finds herself in a battle with her own husband who is a high ranking government official and also drawn towards a gandhiwadi revolutionary party that is hell bent on exposing the ruthless face of the emergency and the government in front of the international media and leadership.
Indu Sarkar looks undeniably interesting on the papers but the film takes such a safe and cliché path of execution that it ends up being nothing more than a caricature of the characters that it wants us to associate with. Neil Nitin Mukesh is referred to as Chief and plays a character that is unquestionably designed on Sanjay Gandhi and we have multiple references to “Mummy” but the rendering of his character is so one dimensional and reminiscent of the 70s Hindi film villains in the line of “Gabbar” that you are never able to take him seriously. In Mukesh’s defense, I can say that it is a comic relief.
The manner in which Indu metamorphs into a revolutionary is too much to fathom. Her poetry writing abilities that is used every now and then is also so poorly brought up that it feels terribly out of place. Her story with her husband is also very poorly dealt with. There was room for much drama there but it is negated in a terrible way. I noticed that the story went nowhere. Even though Indu’s character has a full arch, the development of the character is almost absent. Also the story has no punch neither the events are recreated to the fullest for the film to merit some documentary-esc kudos.
The only thing saving this film was a spirited performance from Kriti Kulhari. She makes the character her own and no matter how insane the happenings get, we, the audiences are able to sympathize with her and feel her agony to a certain extent.
When you watch the film, you cannot help but feel that the screenplay is disjoined at many junctures often giving a feeling that some scene or the other is missing. I have a strong hunch that a large portion of Supriya Vinod’s character was removed. She was playing Indira Gandhi and there is all but one scene featuring her. There was more of her in the trailers than in the movie. However, it goes beyond saying that whatever was left out might not have added much to the narrative anyways.
Indu Sarkar fails because it doesn’t take itself seriously. It doesn’t have the guts to tell the story it sets out to say. It is a weak and censored account of an event that’s best presented un-censored. Sans the spirited act of Kriti Kulhari, this film would have fallen flat on its face. She is the only saving grace and reason to watch this film.
Rating : 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)