Certain villages in India still follow the age-old customs that have been condemned by the judiciary as well as by the principled and upright citizen. KHAP, directed by Ajai Sinha, who has a number of successful television shows to his credit, deals with the issue of honor killing. It's a story that sends a shiver down your spine because it depicts how couples in love are butchered in the name of honor.
Based in the heartland of India, the director adopts a bold stance of catching the bull by the horns. Come to think of it, people residing in the metros may not be well aware of how innocent people are killed in the name of false honor. This film questions the tradition, but at the same time, the talented storyteller ensures that it doesn't come across as a dark/depressing tale or a documentary with gruesome killings dominating the show. A love story with some interesting, entertaining moments have been interwoven in the narrative to make this film palatable.
KHAP takes you to the land where Khap panchayats rule. Marriages are not made in heaven here. Also, no one dare challenge the age-old customs. Two different worlds collide when Om Puri's granddaughter Yuvika and her husband Sartaj challenge the panchayat's diktat and supremacy.
What really makes KHAP watchable is the fact that the director doesn't take sides. The film just doesn't show the Khap panchayats as perpetrators of honor killings. Of course, the film projects honor killings and the Khap panchayat's commands, but the director concurrently ensures that they aren't projected as outright negative. In fact, a character in the film -- enacted by Alok Nath -- speaks in favor of the Khap panchayat and highlights their achievements as well. I am sure, a film like KHAP may lead to debates in the society.
Nonetheless, there are a few rough edges in the writing. The ending, for instance, is not convincing enough. In fact, it's outright formulaic and clichÃ©d. Besides, the love story has a monotonous start, with the usual song-and-dance routine dominating the initial portions. The director could've curtailed that in an issue-based film. Notwithstanding the hiccups, one cannot deny that the director, who has also penned the film, has made an earnest effort to make a persuasive film.
Ajai Sinha's choice of the subject and also the execution is praiseworthy for most parts. Though KHAP would've been far more impactful had it been a songless film, the songs are well worded and tuned nonetheless. The locales and the cinematography only add to the authenticity.
Om Puri dominates the show with a fine performance. Govind Namdeo is, as always, impactful in a negative role. But it is Manoj Pahwa who shines in his part. He's one of the most under-rated actors who deserves a better deal by the industry. The lead pair -- Yuvika and Sartaj -- is confident, though Yuvika needs to mature in dramatic scenes. Sartaj is easy on the eyes. Mohnish Bahl is strictly okay, while Anooradha Patel is in sync with her character. Shammi Aunty appears in a cameo.
On the whole, KHAP is an honest effort that deserves to be encouraged. Of course, it may not be the most persuasive film that portrays an issue, but at least it makes a sincere effort to be there.