HANSA

Looking at life beyond the picturesque hills, debutant director Manav Kaul presents the other side of the mountains which is not as pretty as the tourist guide’s brochure makes us believe. Here a teenaged girl’s father is missing. Her mother is pregnant and her brother is too young to understand the gravity of the problem lurking in the shadows. The local landlord/moneylender is eager to usurp the property so that he could turn it into yet another spot which somebody could sell as 2 nights/3 days of bliss. While the tenacious Chikoo (Trimala Adhikari) goes out in search of her father, street smart Hansa (Suraj) grapples with his own issues. He pinches the lucky coin of the local bully, Bunty, who makes his life difficult when Hansa’s friend spills the beans.

We have seen this lust for property and female flesh many times over but what makes Hansa engaging is that Manav projects the problem from the innocent eyes of Hansa and the uneasy gaze of Chikoo. Chikoo knows Bajju Da is interested in owning not only her home but also her body but can’t do much when her own grandmother insists that she should go to the landlord to fetch money. Her frustration is palpable.

Beneath Chikoo’s search for her father there is a metaphor for exploring contentment within and without. It is like that red ball of Hansa’s friend which gets stuck on the tree. When it finally falls down, it is hardly of any use. Similarly when Hansa accidentally ingests Bunty’s lucky coin it is of no use to him despite the fact that he owns it now! These are important lessons of life that Manav, a known name in the contemporary theatre circuit, effortlessly slips into the narrative. It seems the director has closely observed the region and its people.

There is no bumper sticker message. One learns that Manav picked Trimala and Suraj from Sheetla village in Himachal where the film was shot and their familiarity with the surroundings and the subject reflects in the way they deal with the problem. There is not even an ounce of pretension in their dialogues. Their emotional turmoil has a subtle mix of agony and resolve which we find missing in similar narratives from Bollywood. Bajju Da is the villain of the piece but he is not a cardboard character as Manav peels off his cover with care, and Kumud Mishra, a seasoned face on stage, ensures there is no jarring note.

Though the camera cuts through the superficial, at some places the framing does give an impression of a student film and the use of a madman to signify voice against injustice gets a tad repetitive and becomes more of a theatrical tool, but overall it is an absorbing experience about how places of leisure are underlined by the bricks of systemic betrayal.

If you are looking for an alternative to Dabangg in theatres, try Hansa. It will make you introspect.

JACK REACHER

A formulaic fare where Tom Cruise tries hard to resurrect his waning charisma, it is a thriller which fails to take off after the initial burst. A sniper shoots down, at random, four women and a man. The investigation officer (David Oyelowo) arrests a suspect in record time. Evidence is stacked against him and just when the district attorney (Richard Jenkins) thinks it is time to shut the file, the sniper asks for Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), an ex-Army officer, who describes himself as a drifter. He is roped in by a lawyer (Rosamund Pike) to investigate the case. Interestingly, she is the daughter of the district attorney who doesn’t want her to take up the lost cause.

Unfortunately, the narrative drifts from here on with its atrocious leaps of faith reminding of an average Bollywood masala offering of the ’70s and ’80s. A villain (Werner Herzog is wasted) with a glass eye orders his underperforming lackey to bite off his fingers. The hero trains his gun on the baddie but to give him a fair chance he indulges in a fist fight. Of course, when the climax comes close the heroine is kidnapped and is taken to a mine. One doesn’t mind going through the motions if the approach is fresh and the way Reacher goes through some of the obstacles to reach the real culprit are absolutely hilarious. Take the scene in the pub where Reacher takes on a group of goons and the innocuous dalliance between Tom and Rosamund is fun but the problem begins when director Christopher McQuarrie tries to reach out to everybody and unsuccessfully tries to present it as an intelligently layered crime thriller when the audience is easily ahead of Reacher all through.

Based on a Lee Child’s novel, Last Shot , the philosophical elements are pulpy and the sentimental segments involving the family members of those killed in the shootout are laughable. Tom is good at action and doing light stuff but when he is expected to dig a little deep Reacher comes across as a hollow figure.

Try this tardy thriller only if you have nothing better to do this New Year’s Eve.