Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Starring: Sanya Malhotra, Radhika Madan, Sunil Grover, Vijay Raaz, Abhishek Duhan and Namit Das
Screenplay: Vishal Bhardwaj
Story: Charan Singh Pathik
Champa Kumari and Genda Kumari, two feisty sisters whose love-hate relationship is at the centre of Vishal Bhardwaj’s new film Pataakha. The film is an adaptation of a short story by Charan Singh Pathik. Champa (Radhika Madan) is the older sister — as reflected by her nickname Badki. And then there’s Chutki (Sanya Malhotra) aka Genda aka Marigold, as her English-speaking husband calls her lovingly. While Badki is a tempestuous simpleton who is happy with her beedis, gets along more with cows than humans and aspires to own a dairy one day, Champa is a dreamer, and wants to be a teacher. They live with their father (played Vijay Raaz) in a village in Rajasthan and their lives are driven by a tooth-and-nail sibling rivalry. When the sisters fall in love with two kindly and supportive young men (Namit Das and Abhishek Duhan), almost simultaneously, their paths seem set to be free of conflict —and each other. But as fate would have it, Badki and Chutki fall for two brothers living in the same ancestral house, thus setting the stage for a continuation of the conflict and screeching brakes on their humble dreams. Badki wants to own her own dairy and Chutki wishes to complete her education and become a schoolteacher. In another track, in order to save his beleaguered mine, Bapu tries to broker an arrangement via Patel, a sleazy middleman with deep pockets and a dubious reputation. For 2 hours and 15 minutes, the sole focus of the screenplay stays on the fact that the sisters can’t live without getting into a brawl and while the uniqueness of the story is admirable, after a point, it does get a tad monotonous.
Technically, the film is good and the production values are also great. Cinematography by Ranjan Palit was decent and upto the mark. The editing by A. Sreekar Prasad is also good and keeps the audience engaged. The film has been adapted really well to the screen from the short story. The music doesn’t get in the way. The soundtrack works when underlining the story, but the songs can’t quite stand on its own.
Performance wise, Sanya Malhotra and Radhika Madan fit the characters like a glove. Sanya especially stands out as the younger sister, bringing a sense of vulnerability to her performance. Radhika seems to have given her best with this one and it shows on the screen. Both their characters seem incomplete without the other. There’s no Badki if there’s no chutki and vice versa. Sunil Grover as Dipper is truly worthy of praise as he convincingly breathes life into his character that is equally hilarious and wicked. Vijay Raaz yet again gives an exceptional performance as a burdened ‘Bapu’. Abhishek Duhan and Namit Das are commendable.
Director Vishal Bhardwaj has done a brilliant job of bringing a story like this to the screen. As one expects from a Bhardwaj film, there is irony and comment at several levels. He tries to keep the setting of the theme as authentic and raw as possible, which also comes across as one of the strongest points of the film. He doesn’t mess around and gets straight to the point with this film.