Mumbai, 25 Oct 2019 8:00 IST
Filmmaker and actor Prakash Jha emerges the winner among the cast.
India has quite a few positive stories about the incredible achievements of underdogs. Somehow these stories hardly come into the mainstream. The story of shooting champions Chandro Tomar and Prakashi Tomar is one such. Their journey has been exemplary and one of the most inspiring ever, especially for women.
A few years ago, the two became somewhat known for the first time when they appeared in Aamir Khan’s television show Satyamev Jayate. Now, first-time filmmaker Tushar Hiranandani’s Saand Ki Aankh (2019), a biopic on their lives, aims to make their memorable journey more widely known.
There has been a series of sports biopics in mainstream Hindi cinema in recent years. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), Mary Kom (2014), Dangal (2016), Soorma (2018) and Gold (2018) are some of the noteworthy ones.
But Saand Ki Aankh doesn’t make you feel as if this is yet another sports biopic. The reason is that apart from achieving glory in the sport of rifle shooting, the characters fight a much bigger battle against patriarchy at an insane level. As a viewer, you feel more for the protagonists’ fight against their male family members than during their rifle-shooting matches.
When rural areas are reeling with patriarchy even in today’s era, one can just imagine the kind of lives women led some decades ago. Chandro (Bhumi Pednekar) and Prakashi (Taapsee Pannu) get married within a gap of few years into a Tomar household in Johri, Uttar Pradesh, headed by their brother-in-law Ratan Singh (Prakash Jha). Ratan Singh Tomar is a short-tempered, conservative patriarch who doesn’t let the women of his family lead lives of their own.
In fact, Chandro, Prakashi and the other women are made to live more as prisoners. Apart from getting themselves involved exclusively in cooking and cleaning, they are required to remain veiled in front of other men. They can go out of the house only when required. Going out of the village alone is out of the question.
So, when two women from such a household defy the severe restrictions and set out to become shooting champions, you obviously root for them. Saand Ki Aankh provides plenty of scope for whistle-worthy moments and songs like ‘Udta Teetar’ add to the joy.
There is a danger in such films for scenes featuring the sport to become repetitive. There was another film on rifle shooting called Desi Kattey (2014) where scenes of shooting soon became redundant because of the insipid cinematography. Saand Ki Aankh has more rifle-shooting scenes, but they don’t get repetitive whatsoever, for which Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti’s creative camerawork is largely responsible. (Yakkanti made a brilliant debut as director last year with the Marathi movie Naal.)
Having said all this, Saand Ki Aankh isn’t the ideal biopic that the inspiring and exciting journey of the Tomar daughters-in-law deserved, for quite a few reasons.
As mentioned before, the bigger battle the two ladies were fighting was against the men of their own family. So, it becomes necessary to convincingly show how they secretly went to practise shooting and attended tournaments and became champions without the menfolk getting a whiff of it.
We don’t know how the two managed to do that in real life, but whatever was shown here is far from convincing. The most one can say is that it may be believable only in a fictional, massy entertainer. But when it comes to the real-life stories of these two achievers, it was necessary to make it at least believable, if not completely realistic.
The film’s runtime of 148 minutes, almost two and a half hours, isn’t justified because the ending portions drag. They also could have done with less loudness and melodrama.
But what hurts the film the most is the lead pair. Bhumi Pednekar and Taapsee Pannu do well while establishing their characters as young women. But their older selves are problematic. Their acting doesn’t go through any change, including their voices and manner of speaking, when they become senior citizens. The bad prosthetics only make matters worse.
The actor who shines the most here is Prakash Jha. The filmmaker made a confident debut in his own Jai Gangaajal (2016). He goes a few notches higher here as you just can’t stop hating him whenever he appears on screen. Vineet Kumar Singh also lives up to the expectations from a talented bloke like him.
All in all, the applause-worthy moments and the noble intentions of the makers to pay tribute to the brilliant success story of these two women make Saand Ki Aankh a one-time watch despite its problems.
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