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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Pakhi, Review: Bird watching strictly not recommended

Pakhi, Review: Bird watching strictly not recommended

Pakhi, the title, is a variation of the word ‘pankhi’ or ‘panchhi’, meaning bird, in Hindi. It’s a good title, and, in the film, it is the name of the protagonist, who is forced into prostitution and lives the life of a caged bird. Good title. There is also an ‘interesting’ sound track, the kind that is rarely heard in Hindi films these days. Some of the sets and colour schemes are very much like good paintings. Savour the goodies, for moving on, the film is dead as a dodo.

Films that ignore the norms set by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) do so at their own peril. The CBFC frowns on torture of women and children, explicit sex, gory violence and excessive use of cuss words or obscenities. Some movies that go wayward get away with minor cuts and mutings while others land up in huge trouble: major cuts, numerous mutings of offensive dialogue and swearing, and a For Adults Only certificate. Pakhi has gone through this grind and has been able to salvage enough content to release the film, albeit six weeks after its scheduled release date, certified A.

Pakhi elopes with her boy-friend, who promises her a career in modelling. She refuses to heed the advice of her father, and, instead, reposes faith in the boy, who sells her into prostitution. She is lodged her in a den, euphemistically called a ‘dharamshala’ (religious abode) by the ruthless owner, Bali. She toes the line, there being no option, and becomes his favourite. Into this milieu arrive a woman and two children, victims of an earth-quake, and sold off to Bali by their uncle, their family having perished in the quake. The children are a teenager son, Maulik, and a pre-teens daughter, Pihu. The mother commits suicide, but the police do nothing, thanks to the influence Bali wields with a certain Minister.

While Bali waits for the girl to attain puberty, so that he can put her on to the job, the minister demands that he get access to Pihu right now. In return for membership of the Minister’s political party, and a fat wad of currency, Bali offers the little girl to him. When he is about to ravage her, Maulik kills him with a broken bottle. Maulik and Pihu escape, but have nowhere to go, and are caught. In walks a senior citizen customer from Hyderabad. He is keen on marrying Pihu, and never mind the age difference of 50 years. Given the right price, Bali has no qualms. But she needs to attain puberty first. Bali asks for three months, during which he starts hormonal treatment of Pihu. He also tortures Maulik and decides to kill him the day Pihu gets married. All the women and Bali’s retinue of goons and bouncers merely watch and follow orders, until…

A long and distinguished theatre career, that includes Broadway and films like Paranthe Wali Gali, dot the CV of writer-producer-director Sachin Gupta. Wonder how much of that he will remain credible after this outing. Here’s the umpteenth tale of the flesh trade, sadistic criminals, corrupt police and ministers and gullible/hapless women, who form the vicious circle. We’ve seen all that many times over. So what does it offer that is new? Well, you could say that the characterisation of Bali is somewhat new, although Tahir Bhasin in Mardaani seems a close enough role model. We miss the dialogue of part/entire shots on several occasions when the conversation is muted. And how much of the footage was deleted, on the makers know.

While there is nothing new in the script (never mind that it is inspired by a true story), there are several ‘novelties’ in the direction. You will lose count of the slow motion shots and the groans, which needed to be pruned down to 20%. In one particular scene, Bali is made to enact variations on a theme when called a joker by Maulik. He applies lipstick on Maulik’s mouth and then says, “Now who is the joker?” in eighteen different ways. Right out of an acting improvisation and vocal variety class, this! Ridiculous and over-the-top treatment is the order of the day throughout the film, but this one takes the cake. Against the classical nine moods of classical Sanskrit NatyaShastra (Drama Technique), Bali gives us 18. Bad luck then that instead of applauding the ‘feat’, the audience cringes and laughs.

One can understand the suicide in the den being hushed up, but there is no reaction of the state machinery to the murder of a Minister! Gupta believes in using his otherwise apt musical score as a sledgehammer, and unleashes deafening decibels every few seconds. There must be hardly any gap of more than a minute when either a song or background score does not rattle your chair and your whole body. There should be a law against such attacks, what say? The man credited with the back-ground score is Nikkhil Koparde, and at 10% volume, unattached to the film, it is remarkable. The songs are tuned by Shivang Mathur and lyrics by Shayra Apoorva. Navin Kumar is the cinematographer, and he’s done his part well, playing with lighting and colours.

Anamika Shukla as Pakhi is more effective in the later scenes, where she comes into her own. Sumeet Kant Kaul has the potential to embody terrorising villainy all right, but what a waste he is here, notwithstanding the ample footage he corners of the 100 minute picture. Anmol Goswami as Maulik has to express blank humiliation for almost 90% of the time he is on screen, and face torture at the hands of Bali. Nothing really challenging to emote. Pihu Dutta does well as Pihu.

Others in the cast include Sikandar Khan, Tanmanya Bali and Pallavi Das. The actor who plays the Hyderabadi client has done a fair job.

Bird-watchers, if you need to watch a pakhi, look at the sky and the trees, and stick to the really free denizens of this world. Don’t buy a ticket and fall prey to this caged bird.

It is not a pleasant sight, nor is it a sonorous sound.

Rating: * ½

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1hgMmM9pUE

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

India



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