An Emergency Of Exhausting Proportions
Set during the emergency, a dark period in recent Indian politics, this is the story of an orphan who has a speech impediment. She discovers her voice when she gets married to a low ranking government officer who suddenly rises in power because his boss is a politician in cahoots with the ruling party. She joins the ragtag band of rebels, and fights the good fight. The film wanders directionless, starting out as a propaganda film showing the Congress as evil, then not knowing where to take the rebellion. Pointless exercise.
The film created a lot of controversy when it was submitted for certification. With a name like Indu Sarkar, a play on the name of the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her government or ‘Sarkar’, you’d expect a sharp political comment on the evil that was the ‘emergency’. There were hundreds of stories about the loss of freedom of the press, forced sterilizations in the name of population control and so much more because the Prime Minister’s younger son had assumed power (without being elected) and was rampaging through our democracy.
But Madhur Bhandarkar chooses to tell the story of the emergency through a random orphan with a stammer who gets married to a random government officer who rises to power because he is connected to a crony.
Indu’s speech problem is magical. It keeps disappearing and appearing whenever the director remembers. The narrative has nothing to do with her impediment, and only serves to irritate the audience and make a simple scene drag on. Why she happens to be in the center of a poor neighborhood being destroyed illegally by the police no one knows. Kirti Kulhari as Indu tries really hard to maintain the stammer but fails. How a mousy orphan turns into a rebel is not ever explained. The films does not have a single memorable dialog that shows us how she found her wings. She suddenly volunteers to go in the middle of a political gathering and throw pamphlets. There is a person who prints the pamphlets but we don’t know if they reach the common man and prove to be effective.
Neil Nitin Mukesh plays the role of Sanjay Gandhi, the brash young son of the Prime Minister who is enforcing sterilizations and razing of tenements, but we are never told why population control had become so important at that time. Neil’s Sanjay Gandhi is more of the caricature of the man who suddenly rose to power. For someone who was famed for driving fast cars all over the capital, this Sanjay Gandhi is shown tamely getting into waiting cars, and even listening to Qawali.
The Intelligence Bureau monitoring rebels, the police atrocities on citizens is done so badly, you wonder if the director is a newbie. It is very obvious that the research was superfluous and the the film was made in order to earn brownie points with the current government. Just creating a documentary of the evil that was emergency would have been a thousand times more powerful than this disappointing drama.
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)