Ashvin Kumar's THE FOREST released over five years ago on the festival circuit, gets its due in the PVRs Director's Rare Category. The film uses the story of a man-eating Leopard to address environmental concerns. But embedded deep within the plot is another serious issue which needs to be addressed -- abortion and per-marital sex.
Of course, Ashvin has not gone hammer and tongs on the issue but has addressed it rather subtly. Full marks to him for throwing light on the ills of abortion and how we should save life. If humans can first learn to protect their own, they will then have empathy to save their environment.
Radha (Nandana Sen) and Pritam (Ankur Vikal) have been married for 12 years. They have known each other since college days. Childlessness plays a big factor in their marriage and they decide to retreat to the wildlife sanctuary in the Kumaon Hills to give their marriage the proverbial 'shot in the arm'. Here they meet Radha's old boyfriend Abhishek (Javed Jaffrey) and his 12-year-old son, Arjun (Salim Ali Zaidi). Abhishek has lost his wife and is now the Warden at this sanctuary. Through Pritam, Abhishek learns that Radha was forced to have an abortion with a quack when in college. "Back then I was just having fun... you know how it is," explains Pritam to Abhishek. Fun soon turned into love and they got married. But the mistake of their past haunts their future -- Radha will never be able to conceive again. This has caused a huge void within them.
In the meanwhile, unknown to all, a man-eating Leopard is on the prowl at the sanctuary. The quartet decides to have an adventurous night. Pritam climbs a tree with a torch and gun in hand, while the rest look on from afar from the comfort of their jeep. This 'exercise' which was to last half-an-hour- turns into a nightmare as Bhola Ram (Tarun Shukla) the superintendent at the Wild Life walks in on them. He escorts them back leaving Pritam on the tree. Back in the bungalow Abhishek and Radha 'begin' from where they 'left off' during college days. While 'at it', Arjun walks in on them. Meanwhile, Pritam has spotted the leopard and is saved in time by Bhola Ram who has come back on his rounds. He sends him back in his jeep.
When Abhiskek arrives to take Pritam back he finds an injured Bhola Ram. He manages to take him back to the bungalow. Back in the house, Pritam realizes what has happened and refuses to open the door not realizing that Abhishek is indeed in need of help.
Sound and 'night effects' are top notch and has you on the edge of the seat. The plot too moves at a leisurely pace with every actor playing their part to the hilt. The action scenes involving the attack by the Leopard too are gripping and on par with the best seen in this category.
But when night breaks into dawn the protagonists speak about the Leopard and the attack and how it would not have eaten man had it not been for the mistake of man, by encroaching on their habitat. You also leave the theatre with the sobering thought about pre-marital sex and the ills of abortion.