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Damp Squib

Saturday, September 29, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Pataakha
Director:
Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast: Sanya Malhotra, Radhika Madan, Vijay  Raaz, Sunil Grover, Namit Das, Abhishek Duhan and others
Rating: * * 1/2

Vishal Bhardwaj's 'Pataakha' – about two sisters perpetually at war for no reason at all – seems to propagate the myth that women cannot co-exist peacefully and are also instrumental in breaking up their marital homes. Joking that their relationship is like India-Pakistan does not make it any more palatable.

The film is based on a short story, 'Do Behnein' by Charan Singh Pathik, and the problem with stretching limited content to a full length feature film, is that scenes go on for too long, are repetitive, and the point is diluted, if not completely lost.

Champa 'Badhki' Kumari (Radhika Madan) and Genda 'Chhutki' Kumari (Sanya Malhotra) are the nasty, unwashed daughters of widower Shanti Bhushan (Vijay Raaz), who simply cannot teach them either good behavior or basic hygiene. Also, Bhardwaj probably thinks village girls have dry, wild hair and stained teeth. These two foul-mouthed, bidi-smoking sisters have so many screeching and hair-pulling physical fights, rolling in mud or cow dung, that it gets unpleasant to watch.

They are instigated and also supported in their antics by the village creep Dipper (Sunil Grover – funny), and lusted after by the rich Patel (Saanand Verma). But the girls, aggressive and filthy as they are, manage to get loyal suitors (Namit Das; Abhishek Duhan). They elope with the men, avoiding marriage with Patel, to whom their father owes money.

They find, to their horror, that their husbands are brothers, so instead of escaping each others' toxic proximity, they are bonded together forever.

The sisters are interesting only in that they have dreams they struggle to fulfill – Badki wants to own a dairy and Chhutki wants to be a teacher. Their husbands manage to keep up a situation of ceasefire, till Dipper turns up to fan the flames of enmity again.

Bhardwaj is a skilled writer and filmmaker, so the dialogue is sharp and the look – from costumes to village homes – just right. But he is much better at handling dramatic subjects. His earlier attempt at comedy ('Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola') was just as bafflingly humourless as this loud tale of two thoroughly unappealing sisters. To be fair, the last half hour does make some sense, and the two actresses put as much fire and lung power as the roles demand. However, this 'Pataakha' is about as entertaining as a damp squib.

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