Bull in an indian village

Bullseye? Not really. But this satire is still worth a watch

  • Published 27.06.15

Director: Vinod Kapri
Cast: Om Puri, Annu Kapoor, Sanjai Mishra, Ravi Kishan, Hrishita Bhatt, Rahul Bagga 
Running time: 135 minutes

Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho is a reflection of the country we live in. A country where kangaroo courts cock a snook at the legal system and run their own banana republic. A country where women are ostracised for wearing western clothes and where couples marrying outside their caste are given the death sentence in the name of honour killing. A country where the privileged flourish at the cost of the downtrodden. A country where money speaks when everything else goes mute.

At a time when newspapers brim over with accounts of atrocities — carried out in the name of ‘justice’ — by the khap panchayats in many of our villages every day, Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho opens with the disclaimer: “Neither a documentary or biography, but a dramatised version of true events”. And with good reason. In the run-up to release, its director — former journalist Vinod Kapri — and his film have been under threat from a khap panchayat in UP, forcing him to seek government protection.

But during its 135-minute running time, Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho remains largely within the boundaries of a satire, not going beyond to ruffle as many feathers or rip the veil off as many faces of authority as its pre-release publicity had made us expect.

Its premise, though, is intriguing enough to warrant a watch. When Sualaal (Annu Kapoor), the head of a Haryanvi village, discovers that his wife Maya (Hrishita Bhatt), younger to him by a few decades, is having an affair with the local electrician Arjun (Rahul Bagga), he not only gets his crony Bheem (Ravi Kishan) to beat up the young man black and blue, but decides to publicly shame him. Not wanting to name his wife because his own “izzat” will be compromised, Sualaal hits, well, bullseye with an idea — he accuses Arjun of having “raped” his buffalo: a fine breed that gives up to 20 litres of milk a day and was recently crowned Miss Tanakpur at a local “beauty pageant”. 

What follows is a disturbing look at the state of affairs in the country’s misogynistic underbelly — cops so corrupt that they are willing to bend and break the rules, and a legal system so handicapped that it helplessly looks on as laws are blatantly disregarded. It doesn’t take long for “Bhains ka balaatkaar” to become breaking news with Miss Tanakpur the buffalo becoming a metaphor for Everywoman — silent and scared, bullied and browbeaten.

Kapri manages to make his film a smart satire that is often wildly absurd in theme and treatment. But Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho never really hits below the belt — religion, gender politics and social inequality are just some of the many topics it touches upon, but fails to scratch below the surface. The flaccid narrative — without a defined beginning, middle and end — means that the film doesn’t really pack the punch it should. And its two-hour-plus running time even allows you to Candy Crush at regular intervals. As for the humour, a lot of it hits home but it sometimes crosses over into gross territory, sure to make some viewers uncomfortable.

Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho is peppered with some of the most talented character actors in Bollywood, all of whom deliver first-rate acts. While Annu Kapoor manages to effortlessly make his Sualaal a man who makes you laugh even at his revolting best, Om Puri as corrupt cop Matang Singh is a delight. Watch out for that scene where he claims that the buffalo is in a state of shock. “Tomatised hai ji (yes, traumatised!),” he deadpans. Ravi Kishan makes an impression as the all-brawn-no-brain henchman, while Sanjai Mishra is the pick of the lot, bringing on the belly laughs as the mumbo-jumbo-spouting tantrik-cum-astrologer. 

Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho may not have the bite we expected, but is worth a watch for an ‘incredible’ India that many in the multiplexes may not know about.

Priyanka Roy
I liked Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho because... Tell t2@abp.in





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