Indu Sarkar Review
Cast: Kriti Kulhari, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Anupam Kher, Tota Roy Chowdhury and Supriya Vinod
Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Quick take: Strong performances and feminist twist add power to this political drama
Rating: 3 stars
Part history and part fiction, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Indu Sarkar is a decent film that takes the 1975 emergency and recreates that part of history with a strong story of feminism and rebellion. Kirti Kulhari’s superb performance and some good old theatricality by Bhandarkar make this film an engaging experience. Its not always historically accurate and it has its moments of heightened melodrama, but for the large part, Indu Sarkar tells an interesting story with conviction.
The story is based around an orphan girl Indu who has a stammer. She grows up losing confidence under the effect of her speech impediment. Also she’s taught to be a bhartiya nari and exchange her ambitions of being a poetess for the more acceptable reality of being an ideal wife and homemaker. But the 1975 emergency and its political turmoil give Indu an unlikely chance at rebellion and gumption. She rises above her husband’s chauvinism and political nexus to save two poor children from the government’s misdeeds. In the process she regains her confidence if not her ambition of being a writer. There’s obvious reference to the Indian National Congress’ involvement with the emergency and then Prime Minister and her son’s slavish misuse of power. But it’s all done without the use of names, cleverly avoiding any contentious conflict.
Bhandarkar’s film is based during the 21 month Emergency period that lasted between 1975 and 1977. But for some reason it refers to the period as a 19-month ordeal. There quite a few historical distortions, but regardless of the accuracy, the film’s recreation of the emergency and the political chaos that presided during this time feels accurate. The general air of discontent and tension expressed through characters and situations seems plausible and it creates a charged political relevance for the story.
Like most of Bhandarkar’s recent offerings, there are times when Indu Sarkar becomes a little too loud and theatrical at times. The background score could have been dialed down a notch or two. But the taut editing and the decent cinematography help the film out. The best part of this movie are the performances. Kirti Kulhari has a strong character with a phenomenal arc. Indu goes from being an unsure girl just hoping for familial bliss to being the veritable common man disgusted by corruption and misuse of power. She witnesses corruption and decides to fight it. Kirti’s efforts in the film are superlative. She carries this film in a solo effort. Neil Nitin Mukesh as the scion of the political family is simply called Chief in the film. The prosthetics and some masterful acting make his performance an absolute delight. Tota Roy Chowdhury plays Indu’s husband with effortless ease. Together, these three help Indu Sarkar recover from its weaker moments and melodrama.
Indu Sarkar is no satire or subliminal piece on the history of Indian politics. It takes too many cinematic liberties, but thankfully its focus on the strong female lead lends it credibility and keeps the jingoism curbed. The performances are certainly its strength. Thankfully its rights outnumber its wrongs, making it an engaging watch for sure.