Review Hindi

377 Ab Normal review: Well-meaning saga about LGBTQ rights in India goes astray

Release Date: 20 May 2019

Read in: Hindi


Cinestaan Rating

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Sonal Pandya

The digital film, written and directed by Faruk Kabir, begins promisingly but meanders in its storytelling.

A crucial and long-awaited verdict is due any minute and the activists, accused and lawyers who have fought to overturn it, can do nothing but wait. Faruk Kabir’s often confusing drama follows the historic judgment from September 2018 wherein Section 377 was declared unconstitutional.

The one-and-a-half hour film contains a host of characters from all walks of life — the wealthy Keshav (Sid Makkar), who has come out in his own circle of friends, to Arif Zafar (Zeeshan Ayyub), a man from Lucknow, who runs an NGO, Bharosa Trust and becomes one of the few to be jailed under Section 377. The film highlights the struggles they face with identity and every day living, even though they have the support of their families.

Parallelly, the film also goes back in time to feature two different coming out stories of youngsters, Pallav (Shashank Arora) and Shalmili (Maanvi Gagroo) — one with understanding, and the other that ends in heartbreak.

For a story that should focus on the compelling legal fight of the LGBTQ community for equal rights, 377 Ab Normal skips around to many differing points of view. A few characters are introduced early on and then promptly forgotten about (whatever happened to Anju Mahendru’s Mehrunissa?).

But the problem is it becomes two different films, one about these individuals and not about the legal fight in the courts. The events that led up to the Supreme Court’s judgment last year are important to understanding the homophobia and fear that is prevalent even today. It makes the decriminalisation of 377 and its clear cut verdict even more powerful.

This reviewer wished the makers had focused more on that. The stories of the each of the characters is equally important, but maybe it belonged in a web-series, not a linear film. Furthermore, the inconsistent acting of the ensemble cast is disappointing. At least, actors Kumud Mishra and Mohan Kapoor as the lawyers on opposing sides of the case are more effective.

377 Ab Normal is also hampered by low production values. The story jumps around from Mumbai to Delhi to Lucknow, but it all looks the same. In addition, few scenes that were shown in the trailer are not used in the final film.

Sadly, this well-meaning saga goes astray with its intentions. We wait for another film or series that will take up the story of ‘haq ki ladayi’.

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