After having stuck with the Censor Board for long thanks to its bold subject of a relationship between a teacher and his underage student, Haraamkhor
finally see light as it releases this week. The movie stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Shweta Tripathi in the lead, and is directed by Shlok Sharma. Here's our review of the movie...
What's it about
Sandhya (Shweta Tripathi) is a ninth student, living in a far flung village with her police officer father. Her mother has abandoned her long ago, while her father is having an affair of his own, leaving her to her own devices. In this sense of abandonment, she carries out a sexual relationship with her much married teacher Shyam sir (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Wilting under the guilt of this relationship while also reluctant to accept the new woman in her father's life, Sandhya keeps in making more mistakes. On a parallel track, there is her tuition mate Kamal who has a crush on her. He and his best friend Mintoo play revengeful tricks on their teacher when they suspect he is having an affair with the girl he likes.
He has played a gangster, a serial killer and an abusive ghost, but this could be Nawazuddin Siddiqui's creepiest role of his career. Any character who manipulates an underage girl to have sex with him is not someone who can appeal to us. It is the supreme talent and calibre of this fine actor that he can make us laugh as well as feel disgusted about his actions. He has no qualms about abusing his wife or beating his students, especially the girls badly, and that makes him one of the worst protagonists to have ever graced Indian cinema. And yet you cannot miss the inherent humour in his performance, especially in the scene where he desperately trying to convince his wife to stay, after she finds out about his affair. However, the film belongs to Shweta Tripathi. In what was supposed to be her debut movie, Tripathi proves once again, after Masaan, that she is a talent to watch out for. She brings in the right amount of anguish, despair, rebelliousness and playfulness that her flawed character needs. Shlok Sharma has taken a gritty subject, that will resonate well with the audience who read papers and are appalled by the atrocities committed to the kids by people who were supposed to take care of them. The interval scene is one of the most uncomfortable scenes I have witnessed in a film in recent times. Another pat on the back is reserved for Mukesh Chhabra, the casting genius for roping in some natural talent to fill in the supporting roles. Be it Trishala Adhikari who plays Shyam's suspicious wife or the kids who play Kamal, Mintoo or Shaktimaan-aping tot, all have been brilliantly cast.
While the subject and the performances are to be lauded, the film suffers from pacing and narrative glitches. We have no clue as to when Sandhya is actually attracted to the creepy Shyam sir. Was it the from the day she spies him having sex with his wife and later tries to touch her inappropriately? Or before that? The movie offers no proper answer to this. Thus, we know that Shyam's actions are creepy, but we can't absolve Sandhya either, despite the movie wanting us to, because she leads him on. Also we are clueless as to how Shyam's wife comes to know about their affair, and why does she return back to him. The parallel track involving Kamal and Mintoo tries to make us uncomfortable with how the kids behave (peeping into a girl's bathroom, having unrealistic ideas about marriage and sex) but lacks meat in their story. The climax where these two tracks merge is a huge mess. It looks as if the makers had no clue how to end this, so they gave it a forced hard-hitting conclusion. It was the same issues that hampered last year's festival-pleaser Chauranga.
What to do