Pataakha: An Interesting Plot That Is Too Thin To Catch Fire
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Champa Kumari (Radhika Madan) and Genda Kumari (Sanya Malhotra), the two fiery sisters are always at war with each other. The only thing that brings them joy is strangling the life out of each other. From actually rolling around in the mud to stealing each other’s treasured possessions they will do anything to keep the other on the edge. Champa dreams of starting a diary one day and Genda aims to become a teacher, but their ambitions always take a backseat when they bicker. One day, each of them elopes with their lovers and get married only to find that their lovers are brothers. The proceedings that this shocking revelation leads to form the crux of this film.
One of the predominant reasons why you are instantly drawn to Pataakha is because it breaks so many conventional Bollywood stereotypes just with its characters. Badki and Chutki don’t resemble the conventional Bollywood heroines even remotely. They aren’t confined to the obvious definitions of femininity. In fact, chances are you will never grow to like them. They are rude, cut-throat, feisty and in many, many areas of their lives, politically incorrect. So, this is one more time when Vishal Bhardwaj has opted to base his film on two flawed and grey-shaded characters. From Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes in 7 Khoon Maaf to Miss Julia in Rangoon, the director has quite the skill of picking out intriguing yet terribly flawed characters. When this tradition continues with Badki and Chutki, you are excited to witness the havoc they bring on screens.
In fact, everything about these girls including the setting they’re a part of, their boyfriends, careers, and neighbors are fascinating. Take for instance their names, Champa Kumari and Genda Kumari, they’re named after flowers and yet they are not once peaceful or innocent. While flowers are perceived to spout piece, they constantly spout hatred. Their father who tries to keep the peace but fails miserably is also a great character to observe. But the most interesting is Dipper, who secretly enjoys spiking up their fight. He is the reason behind many of their brawls.
However, apart from your initial fascination with these two characters, the wafer-thin plot begins to wear you out after a while. Director Vishal Bhardwaj has adapted this rustic, wicked story from Charan Singh Pathik’s short story, Do Behenein. While this plot works great as a short story, it feels overtly stretched as a feature film. For a while, the wicked, bickering sisters keep your attention but as the film moves towards the second half, the screenplay gets increasingly repetitive. You wonder if what you saw in the trailer is all there is. The story as a whole starts to feel one dimensional. By the time you get to the life of these sisters after marriage, you feel exhausted. Director Vishal Bhardwaj tries to revive the tension by making references to their relationship with that of India-Pakistan. Sadly though, this reference is too heavy on a film that sparkles but doesn’t pack enough juice to burst out.
Furthermore, one can’t help but think of Pataakha as a paradox. The reason why it is so likable is also what makes it tiring. For example, initially, you find the feisty girls interesting but nowhere are you able to connect to them. You don’t find them relatable and this makes it difficult for you to take them seriously. Sure, they are constantly fighting. But the question of why they bicker so much doesn’t have a solid reasoning.
As Genda Kumari aka Chutki, Sanya Malhotra is outstanding. With her unkempt hair and blackened teeth, she transforms into her character, giving it all she has. As the disheveled Champa Kumari, Radhika Madan delivers a debut performance that is not short of perfection. Both these actors pack in quite a fight, playing characters that gleefully break many a stereotype in mainstream Indian Cinema. Vijay Raaz is the only character you relate to in the film. You feel his helplessness. As Dipper, Sunil Grover is brilliant. He brings about many hearty laughs with his animated presence and witty jokes.
Vishal Bhardwaj’s music brings alive the rural flavor of the film. It uplifts the essence of the characters in many scenes. Ranjan Palit’s cinematography is good. It goes about capturing the dry, muddy and fiery characteristics of Rajasthan but his framing and compositing could’ve been much more innovative. Editor Sreekar Prasad’s cuts make the film as crisp and loud as the director intends it to be.
On the whole, Pataakha is not for everybody. These girls bring about a lot of fascination but this Pataakha doesn’t catch on enough fire to explode.