Director: Vinod Kapri
Cast: Annu Kapoor, Om Puri, Ravi Kishan, Rahul Bagga, Hrishita Bhatt
Stars: Two and a half
In many ways, watching Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho is like watching a television news channel —one devoted to presenting bizarre stories that either shock your senses or numb them. Like the three-headed snake, past life encounters, man-eating aghoris — you get the drift. But then, the premise of the film — as absurd as it is — is inspired by a true story and the director, Vinod Kapri first explored it in the capacity of a journalist. So while the film has a solid plot and story on paper, its cinematic interpretation bears the touch of a debut feature filmmaker, discounting his experience of having made numerous documentary films before.
Set in a Haryanvi village (the real incident took place in Rajasthan) the film revolves around the alleged rape of a buffalo — Miss Tanakpur. Now for a village that hosts a beauty pageant for cattle, the events that follow may hardly seem weird, but they do. For the matter does not stop at the accusation. It goes on to gather evidence and present itself in court and in the meantime, involves the entire village, media and the police force — the kind that a society deprived of activity is forever ready to feast on.
Annu Kapoor (Sualaal Gundas) plays a village pradhan who has sworn to send a young electrician Arjun (played by Rahul Bagga) behind bars for allegedly raping his buffalo. He has all the support from his sycophants Sanjay Mishra and Ravi Kishan. They’ll go to the lengths of scooping human poop to orchestrating a big fat bovine wedding to support their pradhan. His wife Maya, an unapologetic yet helpless young woman (played by Hrishita Bhatt) may have an inadvertent role to play in the episode but tries little to change things. Om Puri plays a classic greasy-palmed policeman whose principles are forever wavering depending on the offers made to him under the table.
The film resorts to very caricaturish writing and acting in parts, but the seasoned skills of Annu, Om and Sanjay come to the rescue. The attempted comic scenes without them struggle to bring a grin. The film adopts a satirical approach to address issues such as the power of the kangaroo courts in India’s rural belts, the support they enjoy from the police force and the ignorance that could compel a society to allow and even celebrate nuptials of a human and his buffalo bride. The filmmakers have however, succeeded in creating a rustic, rural milieu, that lends the right backdrop for the story to unfold. Had it been a work of fiction, the absurdity of the plot would’ve made it a leave-your-brains-at-home kind of comedy/drama. But the fact that this is no fiction and rooted in real life incidents makes the film a pertinent one and relevant too. It goes on to prove that often truth is stranger than fiction and if you don’t have the stomach to digest hard-hitting news, then a sugar-coated capsule like this one is the next best thing.