Madhur Bhandarkar films – with self explanatory titles like Heroine (2012), Fashion (2008), Jail (2009), Traffic Signal (2007), Corporate (2006) and Page 3 (2005) – exposed the underbelly of various sections of the society. With his latest, Indu Sarkar , he quarries the world of politics, but back in the day when Indira Gandhi notoriously implemented the Emergency. Bhandarkar’s trademark is of shock value; it’s to unearth dirt on a seemingly shiny surface. From the onset Indu Sarkar sets out aggressively to vilify the Emergency and the decisions of Sanjay and Indira Gandhi (who are never named in the film), but soon walks off with its tail between its legs. From the political saga of Indira Gandhi’s sarkar, it becomes a mawkishly over-sentimental tale of a stammering underdog, Indu Sarkar.
- Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
- Cast: Kirti Kulhari, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Anupam Kher, Ankur Vikal, Sheeba Chaddha, Zakir Hussain
- Storyline: Affected by the Emergency in 1975, a woman tries to stand up against the government
Indu (Kirti Kulhari), like all of Bhandarkar’s female leads, is a victim of the system. Her character has all elements that makes her a stooge: she’s an orphan, she stammers, is denied a foster home, doesn’t find a husband and ultimately marries a misogynist government employee Navin Sarkar (Tota Roy Chowdhury). Her sudden exposure to the savagery of the Emergency in Delhi makes her a politically charged person. But on the sidelines is her struggle with an ambitious husband who is loyal to the government, and her efforts to find the parents of two orphans she accidentally finds in a slum demolition drive. Albeit closely linked, the two premises wage war to get the better of both Indu and Kulhari, who switches radically between being meek and feisty. The repercussion is felt on the film, which ultimately presents itself as a watered-down political thriller.
As expected, to propel the titular character as a victim the background score is packed with sad tunes of flute and violin, especially during her moments of personal crisis. To add to the morose setting, the entire film has an inexplicably strong tint of yellow to it. Bhandarkar brutally reduces his characters to caricature. Neil Nitin Mukesh’s comically-looking Sanjay Gandhi being an exemplar of reductionist characterisation. He addresses his mother as “mummy” in the presence of his ministers, and gets offended by a qawwali performance. The actor playing Indira Gandhi, who appears in a couple of scenes has an amusingly large nose and wears shades in a car, just like Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (2006).
For all the hype and controversy surrounding Indu Sarkar , it unearths very little politically offensive content that’s not already in the public space. Forced sterilisations, repression of the press and demolition of slums during the Emergency are widely documented. If Bhandarkar, were to go by his formula of shocking people through exposés, this film does nothing more than portraying the anti-Emergency wave as a second freedom struggle for India. If soaking you in an emotional journey of an “abla naari” was his game plan, then the film surely evolves pity for Indu but not admiration for her valiant efforts. If the film is Bhandarkar’s effort to cash in on the nationalist wave of the current times, it surely will bag some brownie points from the current government.