Drama Stuck In The 90s
Two hours and sixteen minutes long moral science lessons on molestation of women and the attitude society still nurtures. You learn nothing new, you haven’t seen anything different, you have heard it all before. But having Amitabh Bachchan make an argument for the cause, his whisky and honey baritone commenting on male entitlement and patriarchy makes all the difference.
Remember Damini? With Sunny Deol’s fist on court desk makes a memorable point about courtrooms, ‘Tareekh pe tareekh!’? Well, it’s been 23 years since that iconic film, but looks like nothing has changed. This time it’s Amitabh Bachchan using his impeccable baritone to preach to the converted, ‘No, means no’
Is the film good? Sure. It has superb moments when Amitabh Bachchan lawyers up and finds all the loopholes in the investigation made by the police, the prosecution. It has outbursts from the girls who have been accused of everything from solicitation to attempt at murder. But it also has a sleazy prosecutor (Piyush Mishra) - a stereotype you have seen in so many movies (and on police tv shows) you are not surprised at all at any dialog. Not one. It’s so formulaic, you are not even surprised at the outbursts from the girls and the judge admonishing them. The only thing missing is the instruction to the jury (you’ve seen in Hollywood movies) which goes something like, ‘The jury shall ignore the last remark’ and to the court reporter, ‘Please strike that last outburst from the record!’
The subject is current and important. Molestation is never right, and it does not matter if the girl was drunk or wearing flashy clothes, when she says, ‘No!’ the men need to back off. So when you hear praise for a film such as this one, just step back and look at it as cinema. You’ll realise that everything that happens is so ‘seen that, heard that’ - from the neighbors who ogle at girls, to the gentle landlord (whatever does happen to him, you wonder!), to the waiters and manager at restaurant, to Falak’s office colleagues - everything and everyone is so predictable, you actually admire the bad boys. They are brilliantly cast: the creepy cousin (Vijay Verma) who wasn’t even there but is outraged about women who do not stay in ‘aukaat’ (boundaries), the Bengali lad (Tushar Pandey) who is accessory to the molestation but attempts to do the right thing, even the two girls Falak (played beautifully although hysterically by Kirti Kulhari) and Andrea Tariang are cast well. But the stories of the girls are so much like you have seen on TV shows like Saavdhaan India and Crime Patrol that you find more mystery in the mixed caramel and cheese popcorn tub in your arms.
You wish Tapsee Pannu did not have to be such a wuss at the trial (remember Jodie Foster in The Accused? You want that!). You wish the film had been crisper. You wish there was at least one Amitabh Bachchan dialog you could take home with you. ‘No means no’ does have the same drama as Sunny Deol’s ‘Tareekh pe tareekh’ or the laconic brilliance of ‘Tera naam kya hai Basanti’... Watch it because you cannot miss out on a film that attempts to talk about a subject that needs talking about. Just remember that the subject alone does not make it an amazing film.
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)