Wednesday, April 9, 2014


By UMA DA CUNHA - extract from
Sat Apr 5, 2014
Rajat Kapoor’s Ankhon Dekhi and Nagesh Kukunoor’s Lakshmi exemplify the move in mainstream cinema beyond star-driven work to searching analyses of India’s harsh realities. Both films have pushed known and new actors to delving deep into their abilities to express something new and striking. An aside: each director/writer enacts a key role in his film.

Rajat Kapoor’s Ankhon Dekhi, set in Delhi, follows an elderly man who is propelled by the injustices he sees to using his own, quirky methods of rescue and deliverance. Lakshmi, set on the outskirts of Hyderabad, presents the searing story of a pubescent girl kidnapped and sold to a brothel.

Both films are about issues which we, as citizens, should face up to and raise in the campaigns of the coming elections – firstly, to understand and help the elderly to live their lives with dignity within today’s friendless environments and, secondly, to access and change the mindset of the predatory male when it comes to child prostitution and rape.

In Ankhon Dekhi, Sanjay Mishra excels as Raje Bauji, a middle-aged man who calmly copes with a chaotic joint-family and a mundane office job. The hostility to his daughter’s relationship with a young man who is unfairly maligned and humiliated makes him question all social norms. From then on, he breaks free. He decides to adhere to the principle of believing only what his eyes tell him. Inviting ridicule, he is boycotted by his family, friends and employer. Eventually, his tenacity earns him respect and a following.

The film minutely observes the turmoil faced by the head of a family as he confronts escalating urbanism in a world of changing ethics and morals. This incisive film is based on an original script by Rajat Kapoor. Lakshmi, also written by Kukunoor and released in both Hindi and Telugu,is about two Reddy brothers, Chinna and Anna. They procure young girls for Dharam Vilas, a girl’s hostel that camouflages a thriving brothel. Chinna (Nagesh Kukunoor), is the brothel’s uncouth, sadistic wheeler-dealer. Anna (Satish Kaushik) is the more sympathetic manager. 

The film is based on a true story of a 14 year-old girl. She is the winsome and petite Lakshmi, a nuanced debut performance by playback singer Monali Thakur. She is kidnapped and taken to Anna, who she believes at first to be her benefactor. He soon brutally rapes her as an act of propitiation of the Gods suggested by a priest. Lakshmi then finds herself in Dharam Vilas and is swiftly, brutally, systematically inducted into prostitution.

She is determined to escape but is foiled at every turn with increasing violence. Kukunoor dwells at length and repeatedly on Lakshmi’s endless daily ritual of washing herself after servicing one man after another, and coping with the life she has to lead. He looks unflinchingly at every sordid act that Lakshmi is subjected to and the monotony of her existence, man after man, hour after hour. Finally, Lakshmi does escape with the help of an NGO and has the courage to expose the main malefactors.

Kukunoor’s film may seem excessive but is intentionally so. He aims to force the viewer to feel and suffer Lakshmi’s daily pain and degradation. This is why Lakshmi hits us harder than most other films on the subject. With all the protests and reportage of real-life cases of rape, they continue to occur, routinely. There is no remorse or fear. The frightening reports daily of child abuse and the killer-instinct among rapists suggest that all round uproar and condemnation do not touch the conscience of the street predator on the prowl.

Films are becoming more viscerally aimed – perhaps why films like these two may hit the bull’s eye.

Courtesy: - India's first independent on-line daily which was launchedion January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's column 

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