There are two kinds of films. One, which focus on providing wholesome entertainment. And the other, that sets you thinking!
Shlok Films' CHANDNI BAR, directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, belongs to the latter category, although it has its share of entertaining moments as well.
Mumtaz (Tabu) arrives in Mumbai with her uncle after having lost everything, including her house and family, in the madness of the communal riots in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh.
In order to make two ends meet, her uncle, with the help of a pimp Iqbal Chamdi (Rajpal Yadav), takes her to Chandni Bar, a sleazy beer bar, wherein she is persuaded into taking to bar dancing. Later one night, she is raped by her uncle, which transforms her into a woman overnight.
Potya (Atul Kulkarni), an underworld henchman, frequents Chandni Bar regularly and spots Mumtaz one night. He gets attracted to her and makes her an indecent proposal. She snubs him initially, but gives in to the pressures subsequently.
When Potya learns of Mumtaz's plight ? her rape ? he kills her uncle in front of her eyes and marries her soon after. With the passage of time, she gives birth to a boy (Abhay) and later, a girl (Payal). But the happiness is shortlived.
The police kill Potya in an encounter. A helpless Mumtaz approaches her late husband's associates, but they eschew her like plague. She is left with no alternative other than returning to the bar to support herself and her kids.
Years later, life takes yet another cruel twist when her son Abhay is implicated in an extortion case. Worse, two inmates molest the innocent boy while in custody. In order to raise funds to have her kid released, Mumtaz takes to prostitution, while her pubescent daughter starts working in the same bar as a bar dancer.
The son is released from the prison, but he is a changed person now. He is no longer the innocent 15-year-old who is all set to appear in Class 10 examinations. Seething with anger, he shoots the two molesters in broad daylight.
Without doubt one of the finest realistic films made in the recent times, CHANDNI BAR focuses the viewer's attention to that segment of society that has seldom been depicted on the Indian screen.
Director Madhur Bhandarkar has opted for a story that has a vigorous impact. Tackled with utmost sensitivity, the film narrates the story of a helpless woman who succumbs to pressures.
Not that the film is devoid of 'masala', the staple diet for an average cinegoer. The film has that in abundance, mainly in the first half of this enterprise. The sequences of the bar dancers, for instance, are enough to appeal to the front-benchers.
Directorially, Madhur Bhandarkar, an erstwhile assistant to Ramgopal Varma, exhibits flashes of brilliance in several sequences, like:
* Tabu's rape by her uncle;
* One of the bar dancers ? Preeti Khare ? training Tabu and revealing the tips and tricks of the trade;
* Atul Kulkarni murdering Tabu's uncle, after he learns that he had raped Tabu;
* Atul Kulkarni and two of his associates being killed in a fake encounter by the police;
* Tabu breaking down at the hospital when she sees her husband's dead body;
* The two boys (prison inmates) molesting Tabu's son in the prison;
* The climax of the film, when Tabu's son shoots down the two molestors.
These marvellously shot sequences leave an indelible impression on the psyche. Here's a dynamic director who needs to be lauded for tackling such a difficult subject and emerging triumphant!
One can't imagine any other actress doing justice to the complex role of Mumtaz. CHANDNI BAR is Tabu's film all the way and there are no two opinions on that. Her performance deserves the highest marks? and, of course, all the awards. Her work is flawless and the impact her character makes on the minds of the viewer is also due to a tailor-made role.
Atul Kulkarni is likeable; his introductory sequence sends a chill down the spine. Preeti Khare is first-rate. Vallabh Vyas, as Atul Kulkarni's mentor, leaves a mark in the sequence when Tabu calls him a pimp. Rajpal Yadav lends adequate support.
Raju Singh's background score elevates the impact of the scenes. Cinematography (Rajeev Ravi) is alright. Dialogues (Masud Mirza and Mohan Azaad) are fabulous.
On the whole, despite the fact that CHANDNI BAR explores the darker side of society and is slightly heavy and depressing in its narrative, there's no denying that it's a well-made film that is sure to win plaudits by those who appreciate good, realistic cinema. The kind of budget the film has been made in and keeping in mind the price it has been sold at, it should prove advantageous for its investors. A must see!