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Antardwand review: An intensely entertaining film

Movie:
Antardwand
Director:
Sushil Rajpal
Cast:
Raj Singh Chaudhary, Swati Sen, Akhilendra Mishra, Vinay Pathak
Avg user rating:
Rustic is in, plastic is out. In keeping with this cinema audience’s ongoing mood, Antardwand (National Award winner for Best Film on social issues) is set in a small town in Uttar Pradesh.

We see two parties in discussion: a girl’s father Mahendra Babu (Akhilendra Mishra) is proposing a marriage alliance to Madhukar Shahi (Vinay Pathak) whose son is about to clear the IAS exams. “Even though the results are not yet out,” he says, “we are willing to give Rs 15-20 lakhs in dowry.” But they are shunted out.

Not to be outdone, they decide the next best plan: they kidnap the groom.

It’s a strange turn of fate for the groom Raghuveer (Raj Singh Chaudhary), who had come to his hometown to tell his parents about his plans to marry his pregnant girlfriend in Delhi. This groom, called mehmaan by Mahendra’s men, is subjected to daily beatings and made to live in a secluded hut. He is threatened with death if he doesn’t agree to the forced marriage.

Meanwhile, Mahendra’s family is somewhat in the dark. The daughter Janki (Swati Sen) is told that the rumours of the groom being held captive are false and that the groom is ready for marriage.

Hers is an interestingly-written character. For on setting eyes on the handsome groom, Janki isn’t as averse to the idea. “Acha laga,” she describes Raghuveer and proceeds to lock the door on him. Everyone convinces her that the angry groom will come around in a few days and things will become alright.

That she’s a victim of the forced marriage as well is yet to dawn on her. She is suddenly under pressure to “settle” (consummate) the marriage, and her family tells her to do “anything” to save the marriage.

The film has moments of delicious dark humour like the scene where the almost-unconscious-after-being beaten groom’s measurements are being taken for the wedding. There’s an item song in the film alright, but not Bollywood style - it’s an earthy one performed by a woman in a garish, loud sari, wearing gajra in the hair.

The film whips up enough thrills to keep you hooked - the `action’ scene where Raghuveer is being chased by the kidnappers is superb. There is a marital rape scene that is brushed aside way too conveniently, and is objectionable.

Technically, the film is a delight. Amitabh Varma’s writing has its moments and the dialogue is marvellous. The film is based on a true story and the makers have spoken in detail to the groom who was actually kidnapped years ago.

But the girl’s track isn’t as neatly wrapped up. Open endings are not always cool, and sometimes it’s unfair to show an incomplete track of a character, especially after a drastic turn.

Debut writer-director Sushil Rajpal picks a bizarre reality and turns it into a gripping story. Rajpal’s central triumph lies in bringing alive the film’s atmospherics, and the inspired casting.

The performances are the film’s highlight. Raj Singh Chaudhary (Gulaal) is impressive, and Swati Sen too belts out a nuanced rendering. Vinay Pathak and Akhilendra Mishra give powerful performances. Jaya Bhattacharya as the sister-in-law is marvellous. The supporting cast’s performance is instrumental in the film working.

So there you have it: a gritty film that’s intensely entertaining for the most part. Worth a watch!

Rating: 3 stars

 

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