What can you say about a movie that has International funding (hence a super strong cast), a director who has helped produce international projects in India, but is so exploitative in the name of the subject: human trafficking? It’s a glorified skin flick that has such distasteful dialog in the name of reality, you will upchuck in your popcorn.
Look at the stellar cast: Rajkummar Rao, Anupam Kher, Adil Hussain, Manoj Bajpayee, Richa Chadda, Freida Pinto and even Sunny Pawar. What other than the lure of Dollars lured them into acting in this supposedly ‘powerful’ film about the flesh trade? When a little boy in the red-light district makes the gesture and says, ‘Thokam Thoki’ (Indian slang for ‘banging’), it is easy to be put off. And then it gets worse when everything that happens to prostitutes is shown in the name of ‘starkness’ and being ‘gritty’. It is nothing but exploitative when you show anal sex and oral sex aided by dialog like ‘Don’t break her seal. I want to sell her as a virgin.’
Newcomers Mrunal Thakur and Riya Sisodiya play sisters, Sonia and Preeti respectively. Preeti is sold to the thakur of the village (played by Anupam Kher) because her father Adil Hussain cannot repay debts. Sonia is spared because she earns. This is just the beginning of something you see in TV crime shows. But this is a film, so they all out, cashing on sex and nudity and stereotypes you think you will see in and around brothels in order to justify the awfulness playing out on the screen. Manoj Bajpayee is a crass brothel owner trafficking ‘virgin’ girls to Hong Kong to customers and then doctors to ‘make them virgin again’. Freida Pinto is so shrieky as a ‘Wanna have a good time?’ girl on the curb, you wonder if she thought she was doing a Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. You are forced to wonder if she really has any more projects in her kitty. Seriously? You ask aloud when you see Rajkummar Rao in the film. He should know better!
We have seen enough cleavage in Bollywood films and now sex thanks to Netflix India and Sacred Games. This pure crassness is a little too unpalatable to spend multiplex money. Perhaps the foreign audience is gullible and offered funding to what was supposed to be ‘realistic depiction of the horrors of human trafficking’ and they should be disappointed with this skin flick. When Richa Chadda’s character slashes her wrist dramatically, you wish you had done the same as the film progressed.
(this review appears on nowrunning.com)