- Critic's Rating - 7.5/10
Two constantly quarrelling sisters as an analogy for India-Pakistan is a querky idea and makes for a Vishal Bharadwaj kind of film. Pataakha is based on a short story ‘ Do Behenien ‘ by Charan Singh Patil. Vishal Bharadwaj adds the India-Pakistan reference to this by creating two irritating, cacaphonic characters in Champa Kumari a.ka. Badki and Genda Kumari a.ka. Chutki; constantly dressing down these wild sisters is the Bechaara Bapu, their burdened father played by the reliable Vijay Raz. We are not given a solid reason for the frequent wild fights we witness between the sisters, set against the sandy, narrow landscapes of a village in Rajasthan. The violent outbursts are usually for a stolen Beedi or a Stolen new dress; fueling these fights with gleeful eyes is Dipper, played by the excellent Sunil Grover. These characters come together in creating a sense of believability in the middle of this extraordinary rivalry.
Pataakha is a fun film, marred by an indulgent script.
It is evident why Vishal Bharadwaj was fascinated by the idea of this film, given the recurring political undertones in Pataakha, in some shape or form. He gets the best out of all the departments working on the film and you expect a Vishal Bharadwaj’s film to have great acting, appropriate production design, beautiful cinematography and we get it all but what the film lacks to match up to the exciting idea is the repeative and indulgent screenplay. One does not have to see Chutki and Badki tear off each others hair more than once or twice to feel the vicious rivalry there is. They kick, punch, abuse and curse each other countless times in the first hour of the film and chopping at least two long fight scenes would have saved us the exhaustion, as they do not manifest into a progression of the story. Just like the villagers gathering around, we too sit in the theater witnessing the brutality the sisters unleash upon each other, as the story stands still. The music by Vishal Bharadwaj and lyrics by Gulzar are enjoyable but this is certainly not one of their best works. The songs do linger on you after the film but that makes them hummable, not memorable.
The story stumbles along, despite the recurring fights, with some interesting plot twists it reaches an interesting point by the intermission. This is the point where the film stops being about the sisters and completely surrenders itself to the India-Pakistan analogy. The film almost forgets that we are still dealing with these characters and does not find it important to take a logical step forward, it rather chooses the route of a metophorical fantasy drama. After several years of marriage and having kids, it becomes hard to buy into this undying hatred each sister harbours for the other that has remained all the while and has also crept into their adulthood, and still without a practical reason. We get the parallels the film is trying to draw between the sisters and the two nations but it does not realize that the audience invests in characters and not the metaphor or the idea. Dipper, Sunil Grover’s character reiterates the India-Pakistan reference, just in case you missed it. Although a fascinating idea, it demanded a skillful and subtle execution, which it lacks. The parallels are forced on to the viewer, in the complete runtime of the second half, ruining the credibility of the analogy.
Although Vishal’s script suffers from lack of ideas, his dialogue crackles. It only adds to the fun, that these dialogues are expertly mouthed by some terrific actors. Sunil Grover is a revelation. He acts as the catalyst of the story by jumping into every situation to complicate it further with his antiques. With his natural flare, he perfectly encapsulates the essence and the tone of the film. The other standout performance comes from the debutant, Radhika Madan. Her talent shines through, especially in the final act of the film. Vijay Raz and Sanya Malhotra only add to this excellent ensemble. It is the actors and the trademark Bharadwaj dialogue that power this firecracker but the fire eventually fizess out at some point in this 136 minute long film.