Mumbai, 22 Jun 2019 7:00 IST
Mukta Barve is the only positive factor in this Milind Lele film, but she can't save it.
Hindi cinema has seen a spurt in films about short-tempered, daring police officers over the past decade with the likes of Dabangg (2010) and Singham (2011). And with the growing demand for gender parity, we have had films about female police officers also, examples being the Rani Mukerji-starrer Mardaani (2014) and the Priyanka Chopra-starrer Jai Gangaajal (2016).
Now, mainstream Marathi cinema seems to have started latching on to the trend with the Mukta Barve-starrer Bandishala. At least that is what the teaser and trailer for the Milind Lele-directed film suggested.
Bandishala's protagonist Madhavi Sawant (Barve) is an officer posted at a jail in a small town in Maharashtra. This is a welcome change from the tried-and-tested sagas of an inspector or higher officer battling goons and corrupt politicians.
Madhavi is a short-tempered officer who will go to any length to make sure the rules are followed. This sets her on a collision course with one evil inmate Raghu (Umesh Jagtap) and his jail buddies. But Madhavi does not retreat, even beating Raghu up when he crosses the line.
But Madhavi has a softer side as well, as a wife. As she is unable to conceive, she adopts the daughter of close friend Rukhsana (Hemangi Kavi) as Rukhsana's husband is a drunkard given to violence.
The plot thus far suggests this could be an interesting cop film with an offbeat storyline. But that's only on paper. The film is a letdown.
Bandishala the film has several problems, but we will mention just two big ones. The narrative moves aimlessly in the first half. Madhavi goes about her routine of keeping the hooligan behaviour of the prisoners in check, even if it means defying her senior (Sharad Ponkshe). The screenplay and action scenes are not very impressive, but even if you ignore that you can't help but wonder what the point of the exercise is.
Then the film takes such an abrupt turn that you look around to check if you entered the wrong hall after the interval. The issue of the jail inmates and their enmity with Madhavi goes right out of the window and the film becomes the saga of a rape victim trying to get justice in a hopeless system.
An issue as serious as rape is handled in shockingly crass manner in the court scenes. Only recently we witnessed a childish portrayal of the judiciary in Judgement (2019). Suffice it to say that Bandishala makes those scenes appear sensible.
Here we have a defence lawyer who continuously mouths such vulgar, cringeworthy dialogues that you want to hide under your seat. He simply rubbishes the medical report which proves the victim was raped. And the judge, supposedly a positive character in the film, has no problem with that. On a couple of occasions, when the victim’s lawyer objects, the judge overrules him for reasons that the audience can't fathom.
The court saga is just one example of the juvenile content in the second half. It sometimes makes you raise your eyebrow in wonder and leaves you in splits at others, unintentionally of course.
The only plus point of this film is Mukta Barve, who is believable as the tough-as-nails cop who undergoes a transformation, though she does seem to try too hard at times. But what worries you more is her decision to sign up for such a film. The bigger shock, of course, is that the film won seven Maharashtra State Film awards this year! Clearly, the awards jury needs to get its collective head checked.
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