Imagine the multihyphenate Vishal Bhardwaj doing a detoxified version of MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA with his assured slickness & style with a dream to draw pails of political sarcasm and satirical wit in this re working of Charan Singh Pathik’s short story DO BEHNEIN, with a flirty spin to the Aman ki Aasha in a metaphorical basha in PATAAKHA?!.
Do the political undertones, wit and sarcasms on social issues in PATAAKHA, go beyond the undemanding devotees of the master story teller Vishal Bhardwaj?!, let’s see.
Vishal Bhardwaj writes the screenplay of Charan Singh Pathik’s short story DO BEHNEIN (Two Sisters) published by Sahitya Kala Academy, Shakespeare gets a break in this story of two sisters Badki (Radhika Madan) and Chhutki (Sanya Malhotra) living in a small town in Rajasthan. They are at war 24 X7 fighting for beedies, costumes, anything and everything, in constant competition of outdoing each other in curses and abuse, Badki and Chhutki are two warring siblings who love to hate each other. Daughters of a widowed miner (Vijay Raaz) , the rivalry of Badki and Chhutki gets its supply of grass and kerosene without fail by their snooping neighbor Dipper (Sunil Grover). In between all this rivalry and tu tu mein mein, is Tharki Patel (Saanand Verma) a widowed rich man. How the father finds peace between Badki and Chhutki and what happens in their life’s and love life finds the crux of this energetically quirky drama.
PATAAKHA takes some time to get its satirical explosions, somewhere there is this street play feeling when the hysterical sisters become the metaphor for India and Pakistan. We have Trump, the issue of cows, education, women empowerment, corruption, etc all getting a quirky comment without fail. The simile doesn,t end with India and Pakistan, the father played by Vijay Raaz ( Bapu – Father of the nation), the neighbor played by Sunil Grover ( the observer, the junta, the world outside, the beneficiary, the loser it’s all), the constant blinking of his eyes is an interesting twist to the character that helps in giving that enviously mischievous appeal.
In PATAAKHA, we see Vishal Bhardwaj getting mellowed down in a satire after MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA, Bhardwaj mostly tries to make it easier for the audience in general. While the first half is an extension to the trailer with some moments, the second half is the Vishal Bhardwaj we know.
The humour gets delivered in layers as the master filmmaker takes the story forward in his trademark style, exploiting the rustic charm and lingo of the hinterland.
The performances are of the highest orders, Sanya Malhotra is stunningly terrific, Radhika Madan is amazingly brilliant, Sunil Grover in one word – Outstanding. The great Vijay Raaz shows his sher brilliance with such panache, Saanand Verma is effectively entertaining.
Technically well crafted with good production values, Ranjan Palit’s cinematography captures the milieu to perfection. Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray’s production design is authentic. Karishma Sharma’s costumes are realistic. Sreekar Prasad’s editing is fine. Music however fails to make the required impact; ‘Balma’ looks good while watching.
On the flip side, though PATAAKHA redeems Vishal Bhardwaj from his previous disappointments in movies like RANGOON, MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA, when the great William Shakespeare was not around to ‘milk’ the helmers way to jubilations, the Radhika Madan and Sanya Malhotra starrer is not strong as per his caliber and standards set by him. PATAAKHA would have been an envious explosion if done by any other filmmaker.
Anyhow, the brilliance is there and evident, the crux of our relationship with our neighbor is quirkily told and that’s the best part but that resounding sweep is missing.
Interestingly, recently India thwarted Pakistan in a cricket match, the arch rivals where no match to our Men in Blue that day, but many of ardent cricket fans and true Indians in spite of being overwhelmed by India’s victory, somewhere in their heart had a concerned for the Pakistan team for giving it up very early. Look at the situation, We want to beat them pants down but want them to fight back as well.. A healthy competitive foe is much better than a dull weak friend. Vishal Bhardwaj’s PATAAKHA in that sense is a game well played where the warring siblings some where do display the warmth and concern for each other.