Reality is uncomfortable, isn’t it ? The unfettered emotions and the naked truths of a grimy world are difficult to process when subconsciously our brains are attuned to phase out or masquerade such thoughts by over-writing them with all that is shiny and clean. This basic survival mechanism is what keeps most of us far removed from the real picture that exists out there. Films are also a reflection of our second self, the one which hides away inside a rosy shell. We love watching stories that appeal to our sensibilities and end in a celebration of life. If a film-maker braves the road less travelled and introduces us to the true story behind the mirror, we are astounded by it. We exult in that truth in way which puts it up in a pedestal, reserved for concepts that we don’t understand. We attach adjectives like ‘different’ or ‘special’ to it but little do we know that those stories are happening everyday with unabashed normality.
Shlok Sharma’s Haraamkhor takes you by the collar and dunks your face into a bucket of icy cold water. The abhorrent premise makes you cringe and yet, makes you want to understand the characters. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is Shyam, a 30-something Maths tutor in a small village somewhere in Madhya Pradesh. At first glance, he seems like the quintessential village teacher who uses the rule of the stick and crass language to control his students, earning his livelihood through honorable means. However, the story takes an obtuse turn when one of his students, a girl named Sandhya (played by Shweta Tripathi) becomes infatuated by him. What starts with an innocent hide and seek game where the fifteen-year-old girl tries to find opportune moments to meet her “crush”, soon turns into a sordid affair between the married teacher and the innocent girl. The depravity of the situation is portrayed through the eyes of two young boys who are Sandhya’s classmates, one of whom has a crush on her. Mintu, played by the promising Mohammad Samad, is hell-bent on helping out his friend Kamal in getting to the “girl of his dreams” but are stymied by the unnatural relationship that is unfolding between their teacher and the girl.
In one facetiously choreographed scene, Mintu and Kamal have been asked to stand in a corner by the Tutor as punishment. They watch how their teacher treats Sandhya “differently” even among other students, laughing and giggling flirtatiously and they remark amongst themselves [not sic]- “Dekh kaise hans raha hai. Ab zeebh kaatega dekhna….” (Look how he is laughing. Watch, now he’ll bite his tongue). This unassumingly simple sequence, accurately portrays how intuitively children see the world around them, grasping even the most complex behavior.
Siddiqui is proving to be an institution in himself. His knack of getting into a character and becoming it completely, is a treat to watch even for one which is vile and loathsome. We talk about heroes and anti-heroes but you’d be hard-pressed to categorize the character of this perverted individual sexually abusing his minor student, which in fact is a legal offense as specified in IPC Section 375 Clause 6 . There is absolutely no explanation or angle to his persona. He is just a sick man with no real sense of morality. This uncomfortably convincing act may even make you hate him, fair warning there. Shweta Tripathi, whom we know as the sweet Masaan girl cast opposite Vicky Kaushal, deserves a standing ovation for her performance. She plays the role of a disturbed teenage schoolgirl with natural flair. The delicate balance as demanded by her character is measured and brings in a lot of authenticity on screen.
Shlok’s hard-hitting screenplay is simple in its style of story-telling which makes it far more real than something with a larger production value. In fact in one interview with Rajeev Masand, Siddiqui mentioned that they were discussing how to put particular scenes together and he had energetically mentioned – “Shlok, ek mobile le…ek picture band ke le aate hain !” (Shlok, pick up the phone…let’s get out there and make a film). And that essence is apparent in the film consistently from the very first shot to the very last.
Check out this interesting conversation here:
Haraamkhor is a promising start to 2017 bringing in the much needed realism to canned cinema that is so predominant nowadays. We had similar films which garnered huge acclaim in 2015 such as Masaan. These are subjects that we should be talking about and bringing to the table for discussion. It is our responsibility, as citizens, to safeguard our children against such sexual predators who prey on the innocence of our children and scar their lives for eternity. And for that, its important that you talk to your child about their day at school or college, be friends with them so that they do not hesitate to come to you when they need help. That’s the least we can do for them, can’t we ?
gobblpoint: Despite being a difficult subject to portray a story about, this film is one of the most accurate depictions of a social crime that I have come across in a long time. Not to mention, some of the best performances this year so far.
Disclaimer: The images used in this post are the sole property of the makers of this film and are not owned by us in any form whatsoever.