Director: Avinash Das
Cast: Swara Bhaskar, Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi
A seductive orchestra singer collides with an army of men notorious for abuse of authority and public lewdness in a small town of Bihar, Arrah, where pants slip all the way down to the ankles just at the accidental sight of a woman’s cleavage.
What happens when a sexually-liberated woman finds herself trapped in a land that’s dripped in lawlessness and misogyny of extreme kind is what this film faintly aims at capturing.
Born to an orchestra singer mother, Anarkali (played by Swara Bhaskar) has hearts of men in her palms and she seems to be relishing the attention that’s been bestowed upon her. Despite a pitiable past where she witnesses the horrific death of her mother in the hands of yet another influential man, Anar (as she is lovingly called) embarks on a musical journey and devotes herself to the craft wholeheartedly.
But as fate would have it, Anarkali's alluring beauty and youthful exuberance attracts the attention of Dharmender Chauhan (played by Sanjay Mishra) who rattles her near-perfect, almost-enviable life and turns it upside down.
While performing with Rangeela Orchestra Party at a nearby event, an obnoxious and highly inebriated Chauhan takes the stage to profess his love for the singer. In the presence of his subordinates and some equally lustful men, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Chauhan, violates the body of Anarkali as onlookers cheer on. Hurt and humiliated, Anarkali lands a thunderous slap and storms out of the event only to be followed and harassed by Chauhan's goons later.
The level of lawlessness is prevalent to a degree that Swara's character is chased out of the local police station with men hurling expletives and slippers at her just because she had the ‘audacity’ to raise her voice against the DCP for subjecting her to public humiliation and molestation the night before.
If this wasn’t enough, Chauhan’s paid ruffians implicate her in a prostitution case prompting Anarkali to leave the land she has grown up in and give up on her career as a sought-after and much celebrated singer for a failed attempt at starting life afresh in New Delhi.
In this insipid and lackluster story, two elements stand out- Swara’s performance and the entire cast’s command over colloquial Bhojpuri lingo.
Swara has not only added charm and grace to this versatile character, she has upped the standard of female characters to an inexplicable extent. Just by looking at Swara one could tell the amount of hardwork this posh lady from Delhi must have put in. The unapologetically sexy character of Anarkali looks like the second skin of Swara Bhaskar. From mouthing sleazy couplets to depicting the flair and flamboyance of a stage personality, Swara has yet again hit the hammer in the right place.
The actress, upon whose shoulders the entire film is dependent on, has brilliantly brought to light the plight of strong women who have sob stories to tell and gain all the sympathy in the world but choose not to. Anarkali's character is a fine blend of pomp and pride and gracefulness. If she is gruesomely fierce with her opponents, isolation during dark hours of life sees her vulnerable side.
Although director Avinash Das has saved us all from preaching the protocols of this society or whipping men for lacking self-control, he has simply failed to score those brownie points for this sloppy piece of art. The story moves slower than a snail in the first half and gains momentum in the second part only to lose it later. And, if your cinematic appetite craves for melodramatic endings, this movie is not for you.
‘Anaarkali of Aarah' may not make you want to reach for those tissue papers but it will prove to be an empowering tool, especially if you are a woman.
The film does have its moments of sheer brilliance, specially in the humour department. But its adamancy with the narrative technique and unnecessary inclusion of minutest of details spoils the game. Both Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi (as Rangeela) have played their parts well but they are nowhere close to what you would expect out of two experienced actors like them.
Just like any other female-centric film of recent times, Anarkali sets foot on the unexplored territories of revenge and redemption, only this time, she is both the damsel in distress and her knight in shining armour.