Pataakha Hindi Movie Review
It is with a lot of excitement that I enter the theatre to watch Pataakha, Vishal Bhardwaj's new film since Rangoon. "That man is a master filmmaker, making films that belong to genres of his own making", I think to myself. I knew that opinion would still stand true after I exit, regardless of how the film turns out to be.
It's such a shame then that Pataakha mostly turns out to be quite a bit of nothing. Yes, the film's genre of energetic, foul-mouthed comedy is still very much as unique as any other Bhardwaj film. And yes, Bhardwaj seems pretty confident in handling whatever he puts on screen, his faith in his craft and his idea never wavering. But no matter how much political facsimile that he may have been referring to while writing, that cannot change the fact that Patakha is just extremely repetitive and boring.
His story of 2 sisters (more like sister countries, as we're repeatedly and expressly reminded of throughout the film till the very last lines) starts off with frenetic energy but never settles down at any point into a stable examination of what it is that ails them, what prevents them from expressing their love for each other despite the bond they share. Bhardwaj, instead, is content with just letting them fight till he makes you think "they fight so much because they LOVE each other."
Sadly, the in-fighting becomes really tiring really fast till you stop concentrating on whatever is happening on screen (slapping, hair pulling, stick fighting, stone pelting, mud slinging, I assume there was some biting) and it all just becomes blurred shapes to you. What doesn't help matters is that his usually sharp and witty humor in his rural-set films doesn't shine through this time. A great many scenes are intended to be hilarious but end up making you feel like an outsider to an inside joke.
I have no idea if Bhardwaj realized there are deficiencies in his writing this time around or not but he pushes on and on as a director to get a very basic point across to the audience in many entertaining ways throughout an overlong runtime. DoP Ranjan Palit and he make you feel like the camera is a free, wild beast of its own, jumpy and always on the move. It has the ability to make you feel like you're one of the usual crowd of spectators that gathers to watch them fight to have fun and laugh and clap and dance, akin to the audience watching two trained fighters go at each other in a WWE stadium.
His musical and background score are quirky and effective as always but barring the title song (which plays at least twice in the film), there are no melodious and fun Vishal Bhardwaj tunes to take home this time around.
Much like this week's other release Sui Dhaaga, the makeup and costume department here excel in selling the setting and the characters of the film, and these looks are backed up by confident performances all around. Sanya Malhotra and Radhika Madan hold the center stage very well and no matter how many times they have to keep doing small variations on one same thing, they still commit to it 100%, teeth bared and nostrils flaring each time. Vijay Raaz turns in a sympathetic performance as their father, matching their fierceness when needed, calm at other times. Sunil Grover, as the foreign powers that manipulate countries into fighting with each other embodiment, is largely fun but sometimes confusing.
I exit Pataakha more tired than the physical effort I have put up recently warrants. I wonder if it has something to do with people on screen constantly screaming in my ears or with my crushed hopes for a layered portrayal of the love-hate relationship between two sisters. There will not be a rewatch to find out.