Haraamkhor: A sordid tale told sensitively
Entertainment Desk:In this debut feature, a familiar sordid tale unfolds in a North Indian ‘kasba’: a bright-eyed pubescent girl falls for an older man, and takes the relationship into a space we barely acknowledge, let alone depict in our movies.
Sandhya’s (Shweta Tripathi) rocky personal life leads her into finding solace in her school teacher Shyam (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), and as we watch these two do the mating dance, a minor girl and a man who is married, but has a glad eye, a feeling of queasiness assails us. Yes, we know this happens. Passion is no respecter of age, but sex with a minor is illegal, and showing it on screen leads the film into a very grey area.
Sharma clearly has both an eye and an ear. He gets the claustrophobic feel of a small town to a T. His characters feel real, but I missed depth. The whole film and its shockingly brutal climax rests on a flimsy turn which never feels like a solid plot point. Random things happen, and some of those things turn bad, but you need more for the film to have weight.
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Sandhya’s character is the most fleshed out, and Tripathi makes the most of her confused angry fifteen year old, seething with resentment and longing, looking for love. I found Siddiqui muted though, coming through only in a couple of scenes, telegraphing a randiness his character needed more of to be entirely credible. Trimala Adhikari, as Siddiqui’s wife, impresses: she is both sympathetic and suspicious, and rightly so.
Two young boys (Mohammad Samad and Irfan Khan) act as a narrative thread, spying on, and intersecting with the doings of Sandhya and Shyam: the former is just your quintessential little busy-body ; the latter has feelings for the girl. They provide amusement, especially Samad, but some of their banter seems to be played just for laughs.
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Overall, despite some strong moments, the film suffers from slightness and disjointedness: did the censorship process snip off more than we could chew? Was there more? A second film from the clearly talented Sharma will give us a clue.