Hunterr: This gun is loaded… with blanks

It is easy to get outraged about a sex comedy. Because most films in this genre feature depraved heroes. And the women are usually the sex objects. The power-play follows the genre template — man as the hunter and woman as the hunted. When it’s done with the sophistication of humour and smart one-liners, say like Hitch or Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, men and women find the same sleaze-bag heroes adorable.

But make him a little middle-class, take away his pick-up lines, give him average looks and the same player is looked down as a creepy pervert.

Which is why Harshvardhan Kulkarni’s Hunterrr has opened to mixed responses despite being a refreshingly deglamorised, non-judgmental, politically ambiguous and ambivalent take on the hunter-hunted sexual dynamics.

In Hunterrr, depiction is never endorsement.

Genre: Comedy
Director: Harshvardhan Kulkarni
Cast: Gulshan Devaiah, Radhika Apte, Sai Tamhankar, Veera Saxena, Sagar Deshmukh
Storyline: A promiscuous player decides to settle, but old habits die hard

Mandar Ponkshe is depicted as the sexually frustrated boy next door, without judgment and open to your interpretation. Whether you want to see him as a hero or as a loser is up to you. Sex comedies are never moral science lessons. You can either point out the political incorrectness of the depiction of a young boy trying to feel up an older woman at the market or see him chased and beaten for doing something as unforgivable as that and say: serves him right. You can either judge him for sleeping with married women. Or you can say he’s the one being used. This is a film that reveals more about your moralistic prejudices and hypocrisy than Mandar Ponkshe’s because the makers are clear about who he is. Mandar (Gulshan Devaiah carries the film with his unassuming restrained brand of naturalistic acting) is a confused, clueless, compulsive sex addict trying to quit the habit. As his best friend Dilip aka Yousuf tells him, he’s also dishonest. And, racist.

Which is why Hunterrr is told from the non-judgmental point of view of his incurable romantic best-friend (an endearing Sagar Deshmukh gives the film its understated moral epicentre).

Hence, at no point in the film is Mandar given a medal or any punishment for his behaviour because that’s how life is. We are sometimes the hunter and sometimes the hunted. We are sometimes terrible to people and sometimes, at the receiving end of terrible behaviour.

Hunterrr goes beyond the average sex comedy tropes that we are used to seeing on screen, say Grand Masti or Kya Kool Hai Hum, and voyeuristically trains the camera on your middle-class neighbourhood sexually active player who has no special moves or lines except some vague theories on how you should go for the second-best because the chances of scoring are higher.

No doubt, this is a depiction of the unapologetic male psyche (not just Indian) and stems from a basic animalistic urge of wanting to hunt to satiate a need. What we forget that sex is not just a male need. It’s a need felt by every girl/woman in the film too and they are all strong enough and liberated to choose who they rather sleep with or who they rather live with.

If the film is guilty of anything, it’s the weak writing (there’s a terribly sentimental moment that falls flat when he cries reminiscing about his friend’s urinating habits) and the gimmicky deviations… After a while, the “LOL, just kidding, what really happened was…” style of narrative gets annoying.

For all its mainstream packaging (you got to admit that the Bappi Lahiri track is catchy as hell), Hunterrr is an indie, grown-up version of the candid, sexual coming-of-age film Nagesh Kukunoor made with Rockford in the 90s. It has many moments that touch (and not just dirtily) your heart but a little sex may have given this film a little vigour. In its current form, this Hunterrr is more horny than trigger-happy. He just walks around with a gun and rarely fires — except once in the whole film.

Or should we thank the Indian Censors for making Indian cinema almost sexless?

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 3:52:24 PM |

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