In the space of mainstream biographical films, Saand Ki Aankh(SKA) manages to achieve what Super 30 could not. As opposed to the in-your-face, cringe-inducing righteous artifice of the life of mathematician Anand Kumar that was the latter, SKA comes across as spontaneous, relaxed and easy-going in its celebration of Chandro and Prakashi Tomar (Bhumi Pednekar and Taapsee Pannu respectively), the octogenarian sharpshooters from Johri village in Baghpat who have been unwitting initiators of a unique feminist movement in the heart of patriarchy.
Yes, the bad prosthetics do irk and irritate at the start, but slowly you begin to overlook the cakey make-up on the faces of Pednekar and Pannu and begin warming up to the place, its people, stories, struggles and, most of all, a matter-of-fact rustic sense of humour. It is as real as it can get within the confines of the fantastical world of popular entertainment, be it the daily, dreary grind of the women in the rural households or their encounters with seemingly benign patriarchy that suddenly rears an ugly head at the slightest hint of a supposed ‘rebellion’.
In the sprawling Tomar joint family, three sisters-in-law, perennially hiding their faces behind the ghoonghat (veil), have their own inventive ways of ending the night with their respective husbands. It’s a weird, weird, weird, weird world where the men may not see their women’s faces but keep siring child after child. The women, however, have their own unique methods of poking at the male world and laughing from behind their veils at the government’s attempts to ‘emasculate’ men.
- Director: Tushar Hiranandani
- Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Bhumi Pednekar, Prakash Jha, Vineet Singh
- Run time: 146 minutes
- Storyline: Biographical film on the lives of arguably the oldest sharpshooters in the world — Chandro and Prakashi Tomar, from Johri village in the Baghpat district of UP
Dealing with patriarchy on a daily basis equips them with a unique talent — a steadiness, strength and composure — that gets noticed by a young man Yashpal (Vineet Singh) who helps them hone it to become shooting champions and inspire other young village women as well.
Director Tushar Hiranandani bats it straight and simple, strikes the right notes — emotions never spill into melodrama, humour doesn’t turn slapstick and there’s a right mix of the rousing and the feel-good when it comes to the music, lyrics and dialogue. The takedown of men is gentle but sure-footed, as is the matter-of-fact display of the amount of physical labour the women are subjected to. Most of all, in the women’s ‘struggles’, a helpful man remains a friend and an ally instead of becoming a saviour. The lack of virtue signalling is utterly refreshing.
It’s not just the individual performances but the sum of the whole that matters. The sorority in the Tomar household is heart-warming and Pannu and Pednekar jam perfectly. They are gutsy, inspiring and such good fun, all in equal measure. That posture of putting the hand on the waist and aiming for the bull’s eye has such wonderful swag written all over it. All the male Tomars, led by Prakash Jha, do a fine job of portraying the daily chauvinism and Vineet Singh does well in always remaining a step behind the shooter dadis.
The most compelling part about Saand Ki Aankh is not just to do with women liberating themselves but also ensuring the perpetuity of that hard-earned freedom. It’s about self-realisation but also about paving the way for others and taking the first step so that their daughters and granddaughters find the going easier. For many of us who have tread this familiar path, it’s doubly inspirational to find a film that makes heroes of not just us but our mothers and grandmothers. Add to that the device of the ghoonghat and nail polish coming a full circle and you have an effective and affecting entertainer to light up your Diwali.