In a small town, when a young girl battling hormones battles loneliness and finds it easy to seduce a local teacher, who thinks nothing of but his own pleasure, there is chaos in the lives of a young lad (and his friend) who stalk her constantly. This is such fearlessly new storytelling, it takes getting used to. But it’s a story that needs to be told.
Sandhya (Shweta Tripathi, in her debut film matches acting chops with the ever awesome Nawazuddin) is in her early teens, spends her time away from school and tuition mostly alone at home. Her father who is a police officer leaves home early in the morning and comes back home drunk late at night.
She seeks solace in seduction. A willing schoolteacher with a penchant for violence seduces Sandhya. Shyam the schoolteacher is played brilliantly by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who seems to embody the title of the film. He also is the after school lessons teacher for a gaggle of kids and Sandhya is one of the students too. So are the two boys Kamal and Mintu (they are a find, they are! So natural in front of the camera, they could give any international young stars a run for their money), who stalk Sandhya (Kamal is in love with Sandhya and Mintu is the wingman).
In fact, the whole story is innocently told through Kamal and Mintu’s point of view. They witness everything and begin to hate the teacher. They annoy him and annoy him and then annoy him some more until there is only one way out. And it will shock you more than Nawazuddin raising his hand to the schoolgirls. Those of us living in sanitised urban surroundings will wince at the casualness of the violence in film. You will worry for the young Sandhya who casually eats ice cream, teasing and provoking Shyam when she should be worried for her physical safety. You’ll instantly hate Sandhya’s dad and his girlfriend. You will laugh nervously at the jokes cracked by the Kamal and Mintu, and you will have all kinds of premonitions about the end. And yet when the end comes, you will wish you had not seen it coming.
When the film was first shown at the Mumbai International Film Festival in 2015, it clearly shows how Sandhya is an equal participant in the seduction and flirtation with Shyam. But the version releasing comes with a disclaimer about how seducing children is a crime and puts the blame squarely on Shyam. Also if the film feels choppy (hence extra art-house), it is because the Censor board has been very liberal with its pair of scissors. In reality, the title belongs to the Censor Board and not poor Shyam.
(this review appears in nowrunning dot com)