By Ishan Marvel:
Sex is a physical need, like “going potty,” thus explains Mandar Ponkshe, or the titular hunter, in the beginning of the film. The beauty of Hunterrr lies in its simplicity. It does not pass overt judgment, but simply presents a glimpse into the psyche of a certain type of man. A vaasu, as the film labels him – a player, a chodu, or “a horny bastard”. Usually, such a character is either portrayed as a slick and witty, good-looking, good-natured jerk in the case of a comedy (Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother), or a tragic, hapless, cold, and often, deranged person, as in Shame (2011) or American Psycho (2000). Mandar is none of the above. He is a regular bloke, be it his looks, his demeanour, bank-balance, or his surroundings – and this is the film’s biggest strength. By refraining from explicit commentary, excessive psychological trawling, and steering away from traditional macho motifs, Hunterrr presents a relatable and entirely human protagonist; and Gulshan Devaiya plays the part perfectly.
The script is tight and engaging – intelligent and ridiculously entertaining in equal measure. Among other things, it is laden with delightful one-liners. For instance, when an adolescent Mandar is caught sneaking into a C-grade movie, the cop asks him, “Chota Chetan dekhne aaya tha ya Chota Chetan bada karne?” However crass it may sound, this is the sort of witticism that people actually throw about in such situations, and Hunterrr has enough of these gems peppered throughout its 141 minutes of runtime.
The editors and the director deserve a generous tip of the hat for the way they handle the narration. Since, unlike stills, the ability to convey time is essential to the video format, the way a film depicts or plays with the sense of time is a key parameter (Think Nick of Time (1995), Richard Linklater’s Before… series, Pulp Fiction, or Annie Hall to name a few). While Hunterrr doesn’t bring anything revolutionary in this regard, but the way it manages to execute what it intends is laudable. The film plays back and forth through three sub-stories: one, the flashbacks showing Mandar’s evolution as a vaasu; two, his relationship with Trupti, the one girl who ends up tugging at his heart instead of his nether regions; and lastly, the present storyline, which finally begins to sense a change in him. These temporal transitions are often heralded by shots of Mandar running, either forward or in rewind—to escape a bad situation or to enter a fresh one—which is of course also a metaphor for his life as a skirt-chaser. Like Mandar realizes towards the end, he is always running, always chasing, and for what?
Meanwhile, another well-used device captures the expectation-versus-reality disconnect. Since the general narrative scheme is that of stories within a story, often, the film fools the viewer by showing a hypothetical scenario unfold before the actual one (akin to the traditional ‘dream sequence’). Like when Mandar finally comes clean about his vaasugiri to Trupti. Before the actual reaction, a hilarious sequence plays out where Trupti gets all excited over Mandar’s confession and suggests an open marriage. This is just one of the many instances when the film plays with the audience in such manner; and the thing is, it’s done so convincingly that you fall for it every time.
Major credit goes to the cast of course – from the lead actors to the cameos. Brilliant, understated portrayals, complemented by natural dialogues, situations, and issues. As Jyotsana, one of Mandar’s married lovers ,quips, Tu toh bhaag gaya, main kahaan bhaagegi? Thus, they part with a final hug, a wistful smile on her face; leaving you to reflect on the nature of impulse and the social implications. Moreover, all the characters look real—the sort of people you see around your neighbourhood or on the streets. Special mention to the child actors who manage to convey the awkwardness, insecurities, and excitement associated with sex and attraction during adolescence.
It is encouraging to think, then, that the ‘adult-comedy’ genre in mainstream Bollywood might finally be coming of age, like Mandar Ponkshe. After all, the hideous puns and abysmal sleaze that one endured (or enjoyed) in the name of comedy in films like Masti, No Entry, and Kya Kool Hain Hum, it’s nice to see one that doesn’t entirely resort to humour of the LCD variety (Remember Anubhav (1986)?). This is not to say that Hunterrr lacks depth or intensity. Like the climactic scene, which owes much to the superb chemistry between the lead pair, or when Mandar’s pissing-all-the-time-stud-cousin passed away, followed by a nostalgic ode to boyhood in the form of Bachpan – a tearjerker sung by Amit Trivedi and penned by Swanand Kirkire, are definitely some of the highlights of the film.
Then, in conclusion, a note on vaasugiri: Everyone has a vaasu inside him (or her). There is nothing wrong about it to begin with. We, as mammals endowed with sexuality, are programmed to feel attracted to each other. It is a natural act, a physical need, as Mandar pleads. However, over the centuries, we have made it into something perverse, something that needs to be hushed about, thanks to all the walls that we have erected between ourselves, and the way we have complicated everything (like with dating conventions, the concept of honour and disgrace, and so forth). We denatured our sexuality, took it out of context, overanalyzed and overthought it, and gradually dressed it into something marketable, obsessive, and shameful. Ironically, it is such repression—and on the flipside, the paradoxical valorisation of the macho/playboy attitude—that makes an ‘everyday-man’ like Mandar into an inveterate, compulsive, and helpless vaasu.
Watch Hunterrr for a peek into the mind of such a person, or for a bit of nostalgia, or simply for a few laughs. It’s produced by Kashyap’s Phantom Films, which is like a quality certificate on its own. The force is strong with this one— a cult potential, if nothing else.