By Deepa Gahlot
So, according to Vishal Bhardwaj, India and Pakistan are like two sisters, abusing and slapping each other as they roll in mud? Because in his Pataakha, the analogy comes up so often, that it seems as if he is trying to make a profound point about world peace.
The film is based on a short story, Do Behnein by Charan Singh Pathik, and the problem with stretching limited content to a full-length feature film, is that scenes go on for too long, are repetitive, and the point is diluted, if not completely lost.
Champa ‘Badhki’ Kumari (Radhika Madan) and Genda ‘Chhutki’ Kumari (Sanya Malhotra) are the nasty, unwashed daughters of widower Shanti Bhushan (Vijay Raaz), who simply cannot teach them either good behaviour or basic hygiene. Also, Bhardwaj probably thinks village girls have dry, wild hair and stained teeth. These two foul-mouthed, bidi-smoking sisters have so many screeching and hair-pulling physical fights, for no good reason, that it gets unpleasant to watch.
They are instigated and also supported in their antics by the village creep Dipper (Sunil Grover), and lusted after by the rich Patel (Saanand Verma). But the girls, aggressive and filthy as they are, manage to get loyal suitors (Namit Das, Abhishek Duhan). They elope with the men, escaping marriage to Patel, to whom their father owes money.
They find, to their horror, that the two are brothers, so instead of escaping each other’s toxic proximity, they are bonded together forever.
The sisters are interesting only in that they have dreams they struggle to fulfill—Badki wants to own a dairy and Chhutki wants to be a teacher. Their husbands manage to keep up a situation of ceasefire, till Dipper turns up to fan the flames of enmity again.
Bhardwaj is a skilled writer and filmmaker, so the dialogues are sharp and the look– from costumes to village homes– just right. But he is much better at handling dramatic subjects; his earlier attempt at comedy (Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola) was just as baffling humourless as this loud tale of two thoroughly unappealing sisters. To be fair, the last half hour does make some sense, and the two actresses put as much fire and lung power as the roles demand. But this cracker is all noise, no sparkle.
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast: Sanya Malhotra, Radhika Madan, Vijay Raaz, Sunil Grover, Namit Das, Abhishek Duhan and others
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best known entertainment journalists. A National Awardwinning film critic, Deepa has watched more movies and theatre than most people in the country. An author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions. For Xyngr, Deepa Gahlot reviews theatre and cinema.