Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra, Jaideep Ahlawat, Raghubir Yadav, Neena Gupta
Direction: Dibakar Banerjee
Playing in theatres
There is really no reason to dislike Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar.
The film — directed by Dibakar Banerjee that he’s co-written with Varun Grover — opens with a scene that has the sharp bite and gritty traces of Kanu Behl’s saga of urban discontent and fury, Titli (2015).
We get a skewed view of three boys in a moving car in Haryana. They are discussing women.
Somewhere nearby, a girl is idling in her room at a posh hotel. She gets dressed, puts on red lipstick and goes to a restaurant to meet someone.
A journalist tries to draw her out, get her attention, invites her to a party.
A text is answered by a cop who arrives with a note and a car.
Bang bang… Two worlds collide.
This opening sequence of events is an exciting forewarning that whips up high expectations. And for a while SAPF is engaging. The characters have layers, they feel real and are inhabited with warmth and confidence by skilled actors.
The problem is that the film’s plotting is sparse, and the direction confused.
Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is a road film that doesn’t want to be a road film. It doesn’t want to go in the usual direction of, “and then they fell in love”. That’s a welcome though, a noble enterprise! Problem is that SAPF doesn’t know what else to do.
So while it takes the same road, and en route picks items from the buffet of events common to almost all road films — two strangers face threat, are forced to escape together, have arguments, reconcile because of fear of discovery, meet creepy and non-creepy people, suffer at least one assault or attempted rape, bad people get closer, tense climatic escape and, finally, ishk, ishk— it just does it all slowly.
It also replaces melodrama with an immersive dekho around. Instead of giving us maudlin moments and mohabbatain, SAPF keeps a straight face, is often sullen, and prefers to gaze at trees and stuff.
As I said, there’s nothing to dislike about Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar. It’s a decent film, but it promises more than it eventually delivers.
Satinder Dahiya urf Pinky (Arjun Kapoor) is a suspended cop, and Sandeep Walia urf Sandy (Parineeti Chopra) is a top honcho at Parivartan Bank. They are thrown together because of a massive bank scam around a government scheme that has the power to bring down the bank, and maybe the government as well.
Pinky thinks he’s just running a chore, doing his former boss a favour till he realises his irrelevancce and their trechery. She takes a while to figure what is going on.
Desperate to survive, they head to Pithoragarh to cross over to Nepal. And this journey they undertake together highlights the difference between the two and the worlds they come from.
Sandy has money and Pinky understands how this strange, devious world works. She carries a Rs 2 lakh bag and he is helping her for Rs 10 lakh.
In Pithoragarh, Uncle (Raghuvir Yadav) and Aunty (Neena Gupta) and a shopkeeper father-son duo add some recuperative Uttarakhandi flavour to the film. There are also some cute moments around roti and achar when Pinky and Sandeep are forced to play house-house. But then…
Dibakar Banerjee is a fabulous director and he does small town India very well. He is also very political.
Here too what’s quite nice is that Dibakar and Varun make the girl rich, independent and someone who doesn’t think much about sleeping with her boss. “I’m not some local chamiya,” Sandy says to Pinky. And then there is Swabhiman scheme, Parivartan bank and a cop for us to read stuff into.
Shopkeepr’s son Munna with his blonde mohawk hairdo, Uncle and Aunty who are forever quibbling, try to anchor the film. But SAPF wants to meander in Pithoragarh, instead it goes adrift.
There’s a dance at an engagement party, fighting off a creepy bank officer, and then a man dresses as a woman and dances in a baraat. In between are moments of dull nothingness.
What works for Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar are its actors. All of them are very good though some of them are also playing the same roles we have seen them play before. Jaideep Ahlawat is a cop (Pataal Lok), Neena Gupta-Raghubir Yadav are husband wife (Panchayat), and Arjun Kapoor-Parineeti Chopra have been a thing since Ishaqzaade. She slapped him then, and she slaps him here.
Having said that, both Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra are quite good. He more than her.
Watch SAPF, but don’t expect big thrills and high jinx. Expect some sweet moments and some pointless, dull meandering....