Saand Ki Aankh
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Bhumi Pednekar, Vineet Singh, Prakash Jha
Director: Tushar Hiranandani
Much fire and brimstone has gone into the ageism controversy surrounding the principal cast of Saand Ki Aankh. The leading ladies of the film Bhumi Pednekar and Taapsee Pannu (in their early thirties) drew much ire from senior actors for taking up a role that required them to play 60 years old grandmothers! For anyone who has watched the film would agree that the young ladies have carried the film ably on their shoulders. They capture the feistiness of sharpshooters Prakashi and Chandro Tomar well, adding to the story their own joie de vivre.
What sets apart Saand Ki Aankh is that director Tushar Hiranandani frames the issues of patriarchy and gender discrimination within the structure of a family drama which is heart-wrenching and triumphant in equal measure.
Writer Balwinder Singh Janjua, keeps the tonality of the film deliberately light even on serious matters like domestic violence which kind of captures the blithe, matter- of- fact -attitude with which the Tomar women take travails in their stride. When Prakashi (Played by Taapsee Pannu) Tomar marries into the family, little does she know that it is her friendship with sister- in- law Chandro that will make her soar to unimaginable heights. The women discover their talent for shooting accidentally when a relative Dr Yashpal (Vineet Kumar) comes back to the village to start a sharp-shooting range to create champions out of the locals with the incentive of getting them the much sought after government jobs.
However, given that the women in the family are at liberty only to work hard in the field, milk the cows and stack up the bricks, sneaking out regularly for practice and then eventually for tournaments seems impossible but the Tomar ladies find ingenious ways to pursue their adventures.
The series of serendipitous events that follow—pipping a sneering man to the top slot, meeting and being hosted by the Maharaja and Maharani of Alwar and bringing home many medals on behalf of womenfolk in the family –make for heart-warming moments that bring a smile to your face.
What struck me as remarkable about the film were the leading ladies and their cheery aplomb and agency in empowering themselves even in the worst of circumstances. These ‘dadis’ did not feel like ‘bechari abla naris’ (damsels in distress) in the least and kudos to the writer and director for underscoring this aspect.
Pannu and Pednekar are both endearing, their performance marked by a chutzpah that more than compensates for the prosthetics and age inconsistency. It is also telling that all the male characters are secondary to the leading ladies. Vineet Kumar plays a cheery partner-in-crime to the women while Prakash Jha (the patriarch of the family) and Pawan Chopra among others sportingly step up as the good-for-nothing menfolk!
The unfussy storytelling is well aided by with an upbeat background score and competent production design that faithfully recreates the simple, village setting.
Diwali weekend, a much coveted date for film releases is a crowded affair this year what with three films—an entrepreneurial story, a madcap comedy and of course, Saand Ki Aankh coming to theatres. For now, Saand Ki Aankh seems to have hit the bullseye as the most fitting tribute to Bharat Ki Lakshmi and if the good word of mouth works in its favour, the makers could well be laughing their way to the bank.