Pataakha Review

“Pataakha” narrates the tale of two sisters, Badhki played by Radhika Madan (right) and Chutki (Sanya Malhotra), who are the daughters of their poor, debt-ridden father Shanti Bhushan aka Bapu (Vijay Raaz). (photo provided)

KYTA Productions, Vishal Bhardwaj Pictures Pvt Ltd. & B4U Motion Pictures present “Pataakha”

Produced by: Dheeraj Wadhawan, Ajay Kapoor, Rekha Bhardwaj & Vishal Bhardwaj

Directed by: Vishal Bhardwaj

Written by: Charan Singh Pathik & Vishal Bhardwaj

Music: Vishal Bhardwaj

Starring: Sanya Malhotra, Radhika Madan, Sunil Grover, Namit Das, Vijay Raaz,

Saanand Verma, Abhishek Duhan & others

If you are Vishal Bhardwaj, stay away from Shakespeare or dark thrillers but stick to innocence! This is the moral that comes across after I have watched “Makdee,” Bhardwaj’s debut directorial delight in 2002, the dark TV show whose name I have forgotten that he made much earlier as director, and his complete oeuvre as a filmmaker. In his post-“Makdee” journey, but for “Ishqiya” that he did not direct, the rest of the films fell into the category of “grossly overrated by the media” and junked by the all-knowing people. In short, they were mostly celebrated but total flops (as Bhardwaj himself admitted too late, methinks, on the MAMI Festival public platform last year!)

“Pataakha” proves beyond doubt that the Enid Blyton innocence of the “Makdee” maker was no coincidence. Like his constant associate Gulzar, there is a child within him, or at least talented enough to write and direct a clean, wholesome FAMILY entertainer like this.

One flipside of “Patakhaa” is only the fact that the dialect becomes a shade too heavy and thus incomprehensible on occasion, and that the “violence” in the sisters’ fights could have been toned down a shade – this has given rise to mixed reactions to the film’s all-important trailer, thus diluting its allure when it does not have any stars as magnets!

Also, for an essentially bright film, Bhardwaj, the exponent and proponent of dark cinema, could have kept the camerawork quite bright, ditto the sets—these would not have affected the narration at all, right? Also, a couple of extraneous sequences, like the women beating up Dipper, could have been edited. All these points could have whittled down the length by a neat 10 minutes or so.

The songs are again a disappointment, lyrically and musically, except for the perfectly conceived “Ek Tero Balmaa,” but a big plus is that the item number “Hello Hello” has been completely eschewed in the end product.

So what’s “Pataakha” all about? Based on Charan Singh Pathik’s short story “Do Behne,’ it narrates the tale of two sisters, Champa Kumari aka Badhki (Radhika Madan) and Genda Kumari aka Chutki (Sanya Malhotra), who are the daughters of their poor, debt-ridden father Shanti Bhushan aka Bapu (Vijay Raaz). Badhki and Chutki are always at (vicious) loggerheads to the despair of Bapu, who had promised their late mother that he would bring them up well.

Bapu decides to pay off his debts by getting one of his two girls or “modis” (with the “di” sound as in the word “department”) married to the rich village lech Patel (Saanand Verma). But by that time, both have found loves (Abhishek Duhan for the younger sis and Namit Das for the older one) in the village.

A toss decides that Badhki be Patel’s bride, but Dipper (Sunil Grover), who is like an inveterate instigator of trouble and also very close to the girls, helps Badhki elope with her love. When Patel arrives as bridegroom, he consoles Bapu and says that he anyway liked Chutki more. It is now Chutki’s turn to run away!

What happens next, how the sisters find themselves together again, get suffocated because they cannot fight, and what is the solution to their angst-ridden grudge – and its cause – forms the rest of this very likable film.

Technically, the film is sound, with background music that is unimaginative but competent. Bhardwaj’s principal directorial skill is getting good performances from his cast, and that comes to the fore again.

For technically again, this is Radhika Madan’s big-screen debut, and she is very good indeed as Badhki, her facial expressions and body language extraordinarily expressive for a newbie with only one serial and one as-yet-unreleased film behind her. Possibly, her affinity for dance as a profession has ensured this.

Sanya Malhotra reaffirms her “Dangal” credentials as an enviable performer. In a more gallery-friendly role, she is effortlessly terrific, her performance highlighted by her vocal delivery as the more hyper of the two if that is possible. The boys are good, as is Saanand Verma.

Sunil Grover again shows what a brilliant and all-rounder talent he is – his expressions are incredible when in mischievous or trouble-making mode. There is nothing here of the “various” Grovers we watched in Kapil Sharma’s show or of the intensely diligent cop in “Gabbar…Is Back.” In sheer range and impact, he leaves, if I may say so, the Raos, Siddiquis and Bajpayees still standing at the starting- post!

Vijay Raaz is getting better by the film, as contrasting to his beginnings when he would just ham. He is superb as the hapless father, also burdened by his own troubles. And in a brief, almost cameo-like role, Usha Nagar as the wizened grandmother steals the scene often. She is adorable indeed as the feisty old woman who has a pragmatic and no-nonsense outlook in life.

Rating:***1/2

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