Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The politics of Kaam Sutra

(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on January 20, 2013, retrieved from

Cast: Arjun Rampal, Chitrangada Singh, Deepti Naval
Director: Sudhir Mishra
Rating: 3.5 stars
The easiest way for a woman to undermine a man’s reputation is by accusing him of sexual harassment. Make the right noises, shed the tears, and overnight, he’s the tharki, she the victim. On the other hand, have women really broken the glass ceiling? Is there equity in salaries, in career opportunities, in office romances? And if a woman and man were in a relationship at some point, is he allowed to make a move on her after they break up? The subject is a complex one, and Sudhir Mishra isn’t afraid of the grey shades.
Inkaar, which was originally titled Kaam, weaves between the past and present, and we see so many versions of what may have happened that we’re not quite sure where the blame lies, if at all blame is to be laid on anyone. Most of the action happens at a hearing presided over by social worker Mrs Kamdar (Deepti Naval). As they recount what happened to a committee that comprises two men and two women, Rahul Verma (Arjun Rampal) and Maya Luthra (Chitrangada Singh) play on sympathies and weaknesses, layering the story with possibilities.
Mishra raises crucial questions in this film, and explores the idea of gender bias. Are women the only ones who suffer from biases? When you mould a protégé into becoming what he or she is, how much does the protégé owe you? Can a romance between boss and subordinate take on a different power equation out of office? Does that affect office relations? If there’s a spark between two people in different grades, is it genuine love, manipulation, or power play?
The fact that both Rahul and Maya are small town kids with strong ambitions brings in another dimension. However, one wishes Maya’s roots and her dynamic with her mother had been illustrated as well as Rahul’s with his family. The film is well cast – both Arjun Rampal and Chitrangada Singh look the part of the characters they play. Rampal’s grown tremendously as an actor over the years, and his portrayal of the character is nuanced. We see an arrogant, assertive man who can also be caring and introspective. Chitrangada Singh tends to overdo the sultry looks and hard talk, but carries off the role nevertheless.
Sadly, the film shies away from the brutal end it needed – like the cruel assertion of human nature we saw in Hazaaron Khwaahishein Aisi.
The Verdict: The end strikes an odd note, but this is a gutsy film, one that should be seen.

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