Direction: Harshavardhan Kulkarni
Cast: Gulshan Devaiah, Radhika Apte, Sai Tamhankar
Given the three low-cut bikini panties that have been winking at us from the title of director Harshavardhan Kulkarni’s debut film for a few weeks, I had been anticipating a few hours of naughty pleasure. Hunterrr's trailer promised serious adult action, a bedside view of a "scorer", a satyriasis — the male counterpart of a nymphomaniac. I was looking forward to discovering his MO, partaking in his conquests, smirking at his failures and, of course, the epic disasters.
In the carnal world, nothing is as boring as get-to-the-point hard-core porn and nothing as exciting as slow, teasing seduction.
Dropping the seven veils, one by one. Delayed gratification. My legs had been shaking rather nervously in wait. I mean, how many movies we get in a decade about hypersexuality, an affliction that’s the silent, unacknowledged epidemic in our desh. We love sex. We are addicted to it. We’ve even celebrated the female form in our temples and draped it in an unstitched six-meter cloth in real life.
For all the spurious claims Dinanath Batra and his ilk have been making, they should be making the one really substantive one, the one the world readily, smilingly accepts and honours: Vatsyayan’s treatise on sex. Ten chapters of his Kama Sutra are devoted to 64 sexual acts with handy details about “how to stimulate desire, different types of embraces, caressing and kisses, marking with nails, biting, slapping by hand and corresponding moaning, coition and oral sex, and the preludes and conclusions to the game of love”.
We didn’t get to be the second most populous nation in the world while trying to build an udan khatola or suturing hathi heads on to little boys. We were at it wherever, whenever. If ever a research were commissioned by our government, the number of minutes India spends per capita, in having, trying to have or fantasising about sex would be very impressive. It’ll also help inform Mr Batra that while he’s desperately trying to “build India’s character” with what he calls “value-based education”, adolescents in schools and colleges have always been busy trying to build an orgasm.
In my time, seventies and eighties, when there was no Internet or Skype, and Debonair was strung tantalisingly high in book stalls, we all had to make do with Mills & Boons, Mastram, Kanti Shah’s varied angoors, colony gossip and other such.
That’s when this film is set in, in the Eighties, at least partly.
Hunterrr starts off on a rather refreshing note. Madar (Gulshan Devaiah), surrounded by his married and mature friends, is being goaded to grow up, to sober up. His friends talk of love, family and ask him, “Don’t you get bored of this itinerant sex behaviour, this promiscuity?”
No, he says, and talks of good sex, regular good sex, actually, as being good for the human body, just like good potty. It’s cleansing, balancing, harmonising. “It’s a physical need. How can one get bored? Do you get bored of doing potty?”
And I am a Vasu, a tharki, he says. Jo de uska bhala, jo na de, I’ll try again.
Its premise established, the film begins to toggle between the adolescent years of three friends — Mandar, Shitij and Dilip — the now and the in-between.
The growing up years are spiced with overt physicality — urination, masturbation, desperately trying to conjure up the female form in the nude by the visits to dingy halls where adult movies play, followed by some furtive groping in public. These bits, complete with buddy-giri in summer holidays, are reminiscent of that lovely 2011 movie, Bubblegum.
The in-between -- college days with hostel rooms, lazy afternoons and sudden visits by tyrannical wardens -- are the real scoring years, the years of collecting memories, of lucky days and the ill-fated adventures.
Here the film stays mostly with Mandar, though most of his time is spent in long-winded "fielding", very little "batting". That is until Jyotsna (Sai Tamhankar) arrives. She is the film’s erotic centre and scenes with her are sensuous, arousing because Jyotsna begins with just a hint of reticence, moving quickly to zero inhibition zone.
All the while Mandar's is trying his luck here and there, his two best-friends remain the other options: One is promiscuous but also mature enough to settle down rather piously, while the other remains consumed by unattainable love.
The film's two segments, school and college days, hold the promise of capturing and conveying something significant while mildly titillating us: The birth and growth of the narcissist. But the film skirts the issue and, as it begins to reside more and more in the present, it begins to bore.
The world prevails upon Mandar to abandon his giddy, flighty life and he enters the arranged marriage market where he meets Tripti (Radhika Apte).
Tripti, by her own admission, is not "doodh ki dhuli". But the avatar we get to meet has been tumble washed and dried in cow’s milk. She’s so sweet, so loveable, so "marriage material" that Mandar decides, enough now. It’s time to get serious.
Barring a few brief peccadilloes, the film is now homage to the redeeming powers of love and the institution of marriage. It's all about how love, like the Hindus’ Ganga shanan, Muslims’ wuzoo, Christians’ baptism, washes away our sins, birthing a new, pure, righteous marriageable one.
This morality play, dragging us down since the Elizabethan times, is, well, again, fun interrupts.
Here was a story, by director Kulkarni, which presented a great opportunity to push some boundaries. Hunterrr promised to do that, at least in the invite that was sent to us. But, in reality, it’s consistently moving towards jumping on to the shaadi bandwagon. This is especially annoying because the film has mostly been shot on location -- in DDA colonies, hostel rooms, real homes -- giving the predatory sexual behaviour a familiar dwelling, an authentic tinge. But it goes so coy, so soon.
Tripti’s story on paper is interesting, but as she is played by the charming Radhika Apte, she is rather dull. Also, there’s no fun left in her character when we meet her. All that was risque and fun is now in the past. By the time she meets Mandar, she's done with it all. How irritating.
Gulshan Devaiah has been rather stunning in every single role he has done, from Chittiappa Siddanna Gowda in 'That Girl in Yellow Boots', to Siddharth Dhanrajgir in 'Hate Story', and, of course, Bhavani in 'Goliyon ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela'.
But here, in his first big title role, he's just adequate. He shines sometimes, but not enough. Partly that’s the fault of the role, the way it’s been written -- the whole remember-you’ll-be-redeemed soon, so don’t get too excited -- but also because though in his libidinous talk he is candid, in the amorous scenes, that are few and far between, Devaiah is rather comely.
The obsession with “likes” in these times of Facebook is killing all the fun. And Hunterrr is its latest victim. It’s all too keen that we like it, rather than we simply enjoy it. How sad.