Indu Sarkar Review

“Indu Sarkar” is a gritty political thriller based on Indira Gandhi’s reign. (photo provided)

Bhandarkar Entertainment and Mega Bollywood present: “Indu Sarkar”

Produced by: Madhur Bhandarkar

Directed by: Madhur Bhandarkar

Written by: Anil Pandey, Madhur Bhandarkar & Sanjay Chhel

Music: Aziz Nazan & Anu Malik

Starring: Kirti Kulhari, Tota Roy Chowdhury, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Anupam Kher, Satyajeet Singh, Supriya Vinod, Zakir Hussain, Sheeba Chadha, Manav Vij, Ankur Vikal, Mohan Kapoor, Rashmi Jha, Jashn Agnihotri, Ishika Taneja, Bikramjeet Kanwarpal, Mujtaba Aziz Nazan Sp. app.: Parvin Dabas and others

When you depict the blackest chapter in modern Indian history called Emergency, you cannot be hard-hitting enough. Madhur Bhandarkar gives us a powerful glance at the evils unleashed – illegal demolitions, completely arbitrary arrests and trials, forced sterilizations and even cold-blooded massacres of people.

He opts for an incisive narration with the personal story of an orphan, Indu (Kirti Kulhari), who stammers since birth. He gets her married to government officer Navin Sarkar (Tota Roy Chowdhury) so that the protagonist’s name offers the cleverly disguised title for the film – “Indu Sarkar” (which CAN be translated as Indu’s – Indira Gandhi’s – Reign!

Indu, torn between what is right (taking care of two Muslim orphans from the Turkman Gate demolitions and massacre, which really happened) and her Emergency-supporting husband, opts for the former. Separated forcibly from the kids too later by the oppressive forces of the Emergency, she decides to join the ‘Himmat India’ (a fictional entity) group in their fight against the Emergency.

The film is pretty realistic in its basics, with dramatizations done to heighten the entertainment quotient. Graphic visual descriptions, references to the ban on Kishore Kumar, the draconian MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act, under which thousands of men and women, including politicians, were jailed), the 20-point program are all shown very clearly. Sanjay Chhel’s dialogues are occasionally full of solid punches.

Nanaji Deshmukh is replaced by revolutionary Nanaji Pradhan (Anupam Kher), a master in disguise. The prime minister is ‘Mummy’ (Supriya Vinod), a spitting image of Indira Gandhi, while ‘Chief’ (Neil Nitin Mukesh) is a replica of her son Sanjay Gandhi, complete with a balding pate and his glasses.

And yet, while the film works as a gritty political thriller, all these softening of blows of historically documented events make the proceedings more tepid than they should have been. A plethora of good artists thus give competent performances without excelling, led by Neil Nitin Mukesh as Chief, Ankur Vikal as the Muslim revolutionary and Satyajeet Singh as minister Om Nath.

Tota Roy Chowdhury is sincere, and Kirti Kulhari makes a deep impression again after “Pink,” but truth be told, and with due respect to her talent and performance, the story needed a star draw to get an audience that this film needed. After all, the newer generations must know about the Emergency and what happened in, and to India, then. A Rani Mukerji, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan or Vidya Balan could have saved this film from capsizing.

Anu Malik’s music fails to make a mark in the way the songs are used, while Aziz Nazan’s milestone ‘70s qawwali, “Chadhta Suraj,” sung and enacted by his son Murtuba, come as an odd interruption in the film. On the other hand, the background score by Amar Mohile is remarkably restrained, and we use the adjectives keeping in mind his normal tendency to overdo things (as in “Mubarakan” this week).

Keiko Nakahara’s cinematography is disturbingly and distractingly dark and dull, considering reducing the film’s appeal. Nitin Desai’s production design, on the other hand, is absolutely brilliant, while Devendra Murdeshwar’s editing is a shade inconsistent.

To sum up, Bhandarkar goes beyond “Fashion,” “Traffic Signal,” “Jail,” “Heroine” and “Calendar Girls” but finally remains far away from his “Page 3,” “Chandni Bar” and “Corporate” levels. And that is sad because this time the topic was the meatiest and socially most vital of all that he has tackled in his cinema.

Rating: ***

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