Directed By: Avinash Das
Produced By: Sandiip Kapur
Cast: Swara Bhaskar, Pankaj Tripathi, Sanjay Mishra
Duration: 2 hours
Bollywood Bubble Rating: 3/5
Back in 2011, I was in college. I remember watching ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ on a single screen. Apart from a mesmerising Kangana Ranaut, this immensely expressive girl who was playing Kangana’s friend, drew my eyes. Two years later, my proper introduction to Swara Bhaskar happened with ‘Raanjhanaa’. Half of tonight’s ‘Anaarkali of Aarah’ movie review is probably going to be about her.
Arrah is a small town in Bihar and Anaarkali is the queen of Arrah; a colourful splash of interest in the otherwise mundane lives of Arrahwale. She along with Rangeela (Pankaj Tripathi) run Rangeela Orchestra and are (in)famous for giving lurid dance performances over double meaning songs. Anaarkali is surely the fantasy of many men; but not many, in fair senses. She catches the eyes of VC (Sanjay Mishra), a local politician, corrupt and nebulous, to say the least. One evening, on the wide open stage as Anaarkali dances to the tunes of her own song, a drunk VC grabs her, attempting to make out with her. Although inchoate yet, Anaarkali’s realisations have started striking her. She understands, people have taken her juicy songs and erotic moves as a sign of her consent. She understands she has unintentionally put an ‘available’ board on herself against thousand hungry wolves. An uphill battle begins as she sets off on a voyage to find justice for herself.
The first and foremost to strike your eyes will be a loud, strongly non-urban yet strangely self-assured Swara Bhaskar. She has gone deep into the skin of an erotic singer, her emotional ebb and flow, her moments behind the curtain, the real strokes of her faces beneath the loud colours. She is a never-dying spirit who sometimes breaks down, but never concedes defeat. Next is Pankaj Tripathi, a huge completion to the story. Striving to save both his business and a fellow artiste’s dignity, he is perfect with his emotional conflicts. So is Sanjay Mishra, who plays baddie with an ease.
Director Avinash Dash has to be praised for his sense of characterisation. There’s hardly an unnecessary association in the film. ‘Anaarkali of Aarah’ has a story that’s relevant forever. It is not just about a single individual’s struggle for dignity; but it is a narration of how women, through ages, are made available without their consent.
However, it has its little share of flaws as well. In the beginning, the story seems slightly dragged. We have to wait, figuring out what might happen next. The next reason why we’ve probably missed out on many punchlines is, the staunch and colloquial Bhojpuri words that demanded our efforts to be understood. The director probably wanted to give it a very locale feel. A little less of Swara Bhaskar in the first half an hour would allow the other characters to breathe more. The intention was probably to make it a powerful watch right from beginning. We felt the slap on patriarchy could be stronger, firmer, more powerful. Also, don’t enter the theatre with huge expectations. This one doesn’t fit the bill of either a light-hearted entertainment neither an urban feminist flick.
One special mention for Rohit Sharma and other lyricists. Nobody would call ‘Anaarkali of Aarah’ a musical drama, because music to us means art presented in a sophisticated manner. But this particular film revolves way too much around music and its localised taste.
Isn’t it strange how the science of provocation works? The strap of my bra shows, and you’re provoked. I hold a glass of alcohol with my perfectly crafted fingers, and you’re provoked. I wear red lipstick, and you’re provoked. My legs show, and we’re provoked. And thus when you grope me, grab me, hold me, I am the criminal. I provoked you. I am the criminal, because the body is mine but the choice is yours.
And thus, consider giving this one a watch.
Because as Swara puts it, “Chahe woh randi ho, ya usse thoda kam, ya aap ki biwi… agli bar marzi pooch ke haath lagana.”