Cast: Vijay Raaz, Sanya Malhotra, Radhika Madan, Namit Das, Saanand Varma, Abhishek Duhan, Sunil Grover
Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj
Rating: 3/5 stars
The two sisters Champa Kumari and Genda Kumari, are the centre of this new film by Vishal Bharadwaj. “Pataakha” gives a new meaning to the phrase ‘can’t live with them, can’t live without them’. Champa (Radhika Madan) is the elder sister with the nickname Badki and the younger sister Genda (Sanya Malhotra) is fondly called Chuttki. But her English-speaking husband lovingly calls her ‘Marigold’. Champa is a simple girl who has limited desires and seems content with her bidis, cow and a dream to open a dairy later in life.
Younger sister Champa is a dreamer and wishes to become a teacher. She lives in a village in Rajasthan with her father (played by Vijay Raaz). Champa and Genda do not get along, and this is the biggest bane of their existence. Throw in a jester – Dipper (Sunil Grover) an excellent Bharadwaj-character that plays equal parts as a storyteller and a cinematic lubricant. He blends with the raw and rural setting with ease, and you feel drawn to his character.
The film is based on a short story Do Behenien, by Charan Singh Pathak. Bharadwaj has beautifully portrayed the story of these two sisters through the various interactions between them in rustic and filthy language. The story of “Pattakha” is solely based on the rivalry between the two sisters and the reasons behind their animosity. Their father, husbands, family and even Dipper, are characters that only serve as a background to their battlefield. Humour in the film is casual but still topical, as Dipper asks Genda’s husband to stop being “Trump” in one of the scenes.
Many Bollywood directors have tried to portray the essence, language and inherent charm of an India village, but Vishal Bharadwaj takes it one step forward with “Pataakha”. This is a strange family film that entertains you and is never melodramatic. If there is a movie suitable to be called ‘quirky’ and ‘out-of-the-box’, this is the film that deserves both the titles. Vishal Bharadwaj has experimented with symbolism in this film and a fewer audience can relate to the inner meaning that he is trying to convey. Both sisters can be compared to being like India and Pakistan, and there are many references to partition in the framework. The film offers a fresh perspective on the relationship between sisters, as it takes a completely different dimension.
The entire film is about the sisters, and no one else shares this space. “Pataakha” is also a commercial film with the sisters participating in the song and dance in typical Bollywood fashion. Sania Malhotra and Radhika Madan fit the characters like gloves. Sanya has particularly stood out as the younger sister, although there are moments when her character looks weak. Of the yin-yang combination, Radhika is yang. It seems like the actor has given everything to this performance. Every time Sunil Grover smiles, you want to smile with him. He is explosive but subtle and emotional at times, but at the same time, he does not take himself seriously. The film could have definitely benefited from a tougher editing, but for the most part, I could not take my eyes away from the screen.