There are far too many stories in everyday life. While you forget most of them as a new day unfurls, a few stories find a place in some corner of your mind and are difficult to erase from your memory's 'recycle bin'. Nazim Rizvi's UNDERTRIAL, directed by Aziz Khan, is one such story.
Let's give you a gist of this straight-out-of-life story: A man is accused of raping his three daughters. Worse, the mother of the girls also testifies in court against the man in question.
Let's talk of the cinematic interpretation, UNDERTRIAL.
First the good news: The story moves about in a serpentine fashion and since it's based on a real-life incident, you're baffled at the turn of events. The intricate details that you weren't aware of hit you like a ton of bricks!
Now the bad news: Despite genuine intentions and captivating execution, the story isn't everybody's cup of tea. Although UNDERTRIAL is the celluloid interpretation of a real-life incident, a section of the audience would find the goings-on disturbing, calling it dark and depressing.
Yet, despite the pros and cons, a film like UNDERTRIAL drives home the point that some people succumb to weaknesses and take the wrong path in life, trying to reach the winning post via shortcuts. But at what cost? At the cost of sacrificing your self esteem? Losing out on your dear ones for materialistic pleasures?
Sagar Hussain [Rajpal Yadav] is an undertrial prisoner at the Central Jail. He is accused of raping his daughters continuously for eight years and also for conspiring to murder them. The evidence is stacked up against Sagar.
The last witness is Sagar's wife Sameena [Monica Castelino], who wants to ensure life imprisonment for him with the help of Public Prosecutor P.P. Verma [Prem Chopra]. Amidst a guaranteed guilty verdict enters Ravi Vishnoi [Kader Khan] to, perhaps, Sagar's rescue. Does Justice Jaya Reddy [Pratima Kazmi] pronounce him guilty?
Any film that boasts of a hard-hitting and compelling story ought to be handled with equal conviction. Although the initial portions of UNDERTRIAL aren't captivating, primarily because the film gives more-than-required footage to the jail inmates and assorted characters, a few moments between Rajpal Yadav and Mukesh Tiwari are interesting nonetheless.
But UNDERTRIAL takes a leap in the second hour. The courtroom sequences -- Kader Khan cross-examining the chief complainant [the mother of the daughters] -- is attention grabbing. The flashback -- the mother's past [already married to someone else - a fact she hid from Sagar], the murder of the eldest daughter, the prostitution racket -- are sure to give you goose bumps. The execution of the material is also first-rate.
The film concludes on a positive note -- the man is freed -- but it instills sadness in you as the jailor questions the man: "Where do you go from here?" And the dejected man, who has almost reached the sunset of his life, replies helplessly: "I don't know. Jahan raaste le jaaye." It moves you!
Making his Hindi film debut with UNDERTRIAL, director Aziz Khan handles a complex subject with conviction. The execution stands out during dramatic portions towards the second hour. The screenplay [Nazim Rizvi] is strong, although the entire exercise of capturing the death on a mobile phone looks a bit far-fetched. Although there isn't scope for music [Anu Malik, Shamir Tandon] in a film of this genre, the two songs [one filmed on the jail inmates and the other, on bar girls] are completely justified. Cinematography [Tapan K. Basu] is just right.
Rajpal Yadav doesn't get many lines to deliver, but emotes through his eyes. The anger, the pain, the anguish, the agony, the disgust, the will to fight backâ€¦ the varied emotions surface convincingly all through those two hours. If you thought that the actor is cutout for comic roles only, you need to correct yourself. Watch UNDERTRIAL.
Monica Castelino gets a meaty role and although she goes over the top in a few sequences, you can't overlook the fact that she's enacting a role that demands an actor to be loud. Yet, in all fairness, she's excellent in a role that shows her in various ages: Youngster, middle-aged and reaching the sunset of her life.
Kader Khan enacts his part with gusto. You rarely see the actor in movies these days, but it's a pleasure watching him fight it out in the courtroom sequences in UNDERTRIAL. Prem Chopra is efficient. Pratima Kazmi is wonderful. She suits the character to the T. Mukesh Tiwari shines yet again, although the makers should've given the viewer a background of his character. Sunil Rege and Rajesh Puri are okay. The actor enacting the role of the social activist is effective.
On the whole, UNDERTRIAL has a bold storyline and an engrossing second hour to stay in the viewer's mind. At the box-office, the lack of face-value will tell on its business, although the film has the merits to rise with a strong word of mouth.