Cast: Sanya Malhotra, Radhika Madan, Sunil Grover and Vijay Raaz
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Families take care of one another, and that’s usually a good thing. But what if you were left in your sister’s hands, knowing that she loathes you? And, what if, in fact, she had lost her mind and grown violent towards you? That’s the mess Sanya Malhotra’s Genda Kumari and Radhika Madan’s Champa Kumari find themselves in Vishal Bhardwaj’s latest film Pataakha.
The film is not only a darkly funny commentary on sisterhood but also an indirect elucidation on the continued conflict in the relationship between India and Pakistan, even after 70 years. It’s interesting to watch how Bhardwaj has used India and Pakistan’s relationship as a metaphor to describe the bond between these two sisters in the film. Just like the two neighboring nations, Genda and Champa, too, are ever ready to take it out on each other.
Though Bhardwaj never really goes into the details of why these two sisters are always so rude to each other, he makes sure the audiences must discover it for themselves by the end of the film.
Somewhere in rural Rajasthan, Champa aka Badki and Genda aka Chutki are the daughters of a miner named Shanti Bhushan aka Bapu (Vijay Raaz). The two have similar mannerisms but one wants to study and run a school of her own, while the other has zero interest in books and wants to start her own dairy. They have a neighbour named Dipper (Sunil Grover), who has a penchant for gossip and an ability to provoke a fight quite like Narad Muni.
Clearly, Badki and Chutki are his source of entertainment, given their extreme rivalry, and he never misses an opportunity to fan the flames between them. There comes a twist in the story when these two sisters find their suitors in the village. Now, they are more jealous than ever, even as the lyrics of one of the songs denote, “Tero gundo balma re mero nek balma (Your partner is a thug, mine is a gentleman).” Alas. tragedy strikes when they come to know that their Bapu has already planned to betroth one of the sisters to a rich, desperate widower Patel (Saanand Verma).
Pataakha’s screenplay is delicious, all the more so because its power rings on so many levels. Bhardwaj 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. The other good part about the movie is that Bhardwaj, who has also written the film, doesn’t waste time on the decoration of the film’s build up and gets straight to his point.
At the heart of Pataakha, though, are the two central performances. Radhika and Sanya are two powerful performers at the top of their game here. They literally are on-screen fireworks. The chemistry between the two is indubitably hair-raising and plays a pivotal role in keeping the mood of the film enjoyable throughout. Once again, thanks to Bhardwaj for depicting the rawness of Badki and Chutki’s characters so unabashedly.
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’ who is perpetually stressed about his mining business and the growing fights between his daughters. His sincerity and immense dedication towards his craft loudly speaks to his performance.
Overall, Pataakha is a well-crafted adaptation of Charan Singh Pathik’s short story Do Behnein, which ends with something that’s quite clearly wishful thinking.