28 May 2017 08:00 IST
Directed by Shlok Sharma, this gritty look at an affair between a student and her teacher is both quirky and unsettling.
Haraamkhor made its way to Indian theatres after a successful run in film festivals across the world and even won the Silver Gateway award at the 17th Mumbai International Film Festival’s India Gold section. Before releasing in theatres across India in January, it faced a tense battle with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) as it refused to certify it on grounds of the film’s subject matter.
Eventually, it was cleared by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) with a U/A certificate but Haraamkhor’s makers made significant cuts to the film to have it ready for release which makes it jarring (and obvious) in many places.
However, Haraamkhor’s setting and stellar performances by the cast, carry the first-time filmmaker Shlok Sharma’s film forward.
The film takes place in an unnamed village where Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays schoolteacher Shyam Tekchand who gives private tuitions from his home. The classes are comedic as the girls want to study and boys want to goof off. And underneath it all, as the viewer soon discovers, is an engrossing story of a taboo affair between an impressionable young girl Sandhya (Shweta Tripathi) and her much older teacher.
Here are four reasons to watch the film at the Habitat Film Festival this Sunday:
The rural setting
Using the setting of a small village, where nothing much happens, director Shlok Sharma shows how two young boys, with nothing else to do but plot some mischief, spy on the tumultuous affair between Sandhya and Shyam which have devastating consequences for everyone included. With barren landscapes, and oddly hypnotising wind turbines looming in the distance, the two pairs conduct their business in the open; however, there is enough privacy afforded to them. The film is also shot in real-life locations with village houses and schools — giving it that gritty rustic touch that can’t be found on a film set.
The bold subject
For a first film, taking on the subject of an affair between a married man and his underage student is indeed risky. Director Sharma doesn’t romanticise the dalliance. In fact, he shows it, warts and all. Sandhya is a lonely, motherless teenage girl and Shyam definitely takes advantage of her. What’s even more disturbing that there seems to be a pattern in Shyam’s affection for Sandhya. His wife, who is also young, is a former student.
The talented actor who graduated from the National School of Drama has had a prolific career since 1999. He’s appeared in everything from bit parts to leading man, but it’s in films like these that he’s absolutely mesmerizing. His character Shyam is an absolute cad — he cheats on his wife with his student, but at the same time, he’s also concerned for his students’ progress and tries to own up to his mistakes. Siddiqui is naturally gifted, moving from comedy to sincerity in a heartbeat.
Child actors Irfan Khan and Mohd Samad
Young child actors Irfan Khan (as Kamal) and Mohd Samad (as Mintu) have amazing natural chemistry in Haraamkhor. It’s not hard to believe these two naive boys scheming to have Sandhya fall in love with Kamal and away from their teacher Shyam. Mohd Samad’s goofy antics and smile light up the screen. The film demands a repeat viewing, especially for his performance.
Haraamkhor is scheduled to be screened on 28 May at the Habitat Film Festival at 7.30 pm in New Delhi.