Mogambo Khush Hua! What Awesomeness Is Swara Bhaskar!
Swara Bhaskar plays Anarkali, the erotic folk singer from Aarah, who has to fight the unwarranted attention of the local goon, a Vice Chancellor of the local Kuber Singh Varsity. She escapes to Delhi to get away from the insult, to start afresh, but her past catches up. That’s when she realises that running away won’t solve anything. That she has to turn the tables on the goons and police nexus. A brilliant little film that Swara Bhaskar handles magnificently, supported by a superb cast.
The film treads a fine line between the sleazy and artistic rather well. The songs released on YouTube offer us just show us the almost-sleaze song and dance routine of the film. Yes, the songs are full of innuendo but sung really well, and Swara Bhaskar, who plays Anarkali infuses so much oomph to the role you are drawn into her life with the musicians, her easy relationship with her troupe leader Rangeela (played by Pankaj Tripathi), and even the ordinariness of her everyday life.
The writer-director Avinash Das opens with a concert in the town, and makes every jaw in the audience reach the floor within minutes. Little Anarkali grows up with a voice that hits your guts and uses what Rangeela labels, ‘Shringar’ (seduction) in her songs when faced with the moral brigade who want to shut down her ‘supposedly lewd songs’.
The use of local dialect of Hindi in the film is unabashed and celebratory almost. You are secretly relieved that ‘Bihari Hindi’ is richer than ‘Burbuck’ (Daft) or ‘Bauraa gaye ho ka’ (have you gone nuts) phases and words commonly heard in Hindi cinema. And it is evident in Anarkali’s interaction with the beauty product salesman. You watch her in action as she sashays through town, unafraid of being the ‘it’ girl of this provincial town.
It’s the arrival of the Vice Chancellor of the local Veer Kuber University, Dharmendra Chauhan who seems to be a political appointee and a local goon in Anarkali’s life that the movie suddenly is more than pink lipstick and hip thrusts. Sanjay Mishra who won critical praise for his role in Aankhon Dekhi, is so good as a crooked guy you admire his acting skills (you have an amused grin pasted on your face when he encounters the Sanskrit spouting young woman, or when he drinks alcohol from a disguised water bottle, and are horrified at the undisguised menace he represents when he makes a play for Anarkali).
His encounter with Anarkali and the aftermath when the police chief Bulbul Pandey (I mean really, did they not find any other name but had to borrow from a Salman Khan movie?) has to beat up the audience comes to you as a horrific reminder what a fragile life she leads.
That she has to run for her life because she will not cow down to an indecent proposal is shown beautifully. The fans watch without helping. The only grace is the besotted young Anwar (he reminds you of Sushil from Smita Patil’s movie Mandi). In Delhi, she is recognised by the rabble as she attempts to have a meal, but encounters sweet Heeraman (again! The name and character borrowed from Teesri Kasam) who offers her his card and a deal: record your songs. Now you have seen Ishteyak Khan in many films, but in this film he is just marvelous. The body language, the dialog, his clothes, his comic timing is impeccable.
Credit goes to the writer-director for creating such amazing ensemble. You even notice the grumpy goon (called Muffler) who does not like what the VC is doing. Yes, the recording studio owner does overdo it a bit, but on the whole you are happy you watched the film without feeling like you need to be a part of the anti-lewd song brigade. It could have been sleazy so easily. You know and anticipate the end from a mile away, but when it comes, somewhere inside you like the comeuppance.
Swara Bhaskar holds the movie in her manicured hands. She is magnificent. You can’t help but stare at her, unabashedly. Watch!
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)