A Dalit woman’s rise in Uttar Pradesh politics to the position of the all- powerful chief minister will most certainly bring to mind a certain Ms Mayawati. However, the film will have us believe that any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental. Be that as it may, the representation of caste in mainstream Bollywood films has been fairly poor, and so if a film claims to have as its protagonist someone from the marginalised section, one would expect a certain degree of insight as it explores the deep-seated prejudices and social inequalities and tyranny. In this regard, Madam Chief Minister is an absolute disaster .
Why have a Dalit protagonist at all when the caste issue itself is dealt with such insouciance? Tara (Richa Chadha), who we see first as a librarian, is lucky to not have been killed the day she was born. She battles physical bruises and a broken heart and then a stroke of serendipity takes her to Master ji, played by an excellent Saurabh Shukla, who then helps her political ascent.
"The story trajectory would have been exactly the same even if Tara was not shown as belonging to the Dalit community. That’s how replaceable her caste identity is to this film." -
A “neechi jaat” (belonging to a lower caste), an "aurat" (woman) in a man’s world trying to navigate the power structure—these are almost treated like tiny hurdles she simply has to tiptoe around. The “badle ki aag“ (longing for vengeance) that Tara rightfully nurses against her ex-lover makes her meteoric rise and historic success diminutive.
Political adversaries Arvind Singh (Subhrajyoti Barat) and Indramani Tripathi (Akshay Oberoi) meet a predictable end. Tara commands her way to power and devises enough sly plans to keep her place intact, but Richa remains strangely opaque.
"Her face giving out no emotion and the screenplay never allowing us to truly understand the inner workings of this fiery woman who, from being a librarian to the state’s chief minister, manages a feat few can." -
The film momentarily comes alive as a political thriller when Manav Kaul appears. He adroitly plays her officer on special duty (OSD) Danish Khan who imbues a steely, sharp ruthlessness to his role.
"For a film where every move is announced and articulated, the little moments of suspense keep us hooked but the screenplay, subsumed by the overarching theme of revenge, makes such simplistic plot twists that it never really comes close to being accurately evocative, sadly, trivialising the caste issue." -
The patchy narrative sees Richa playing her part in in a sardonic manner and her single note portrayal has very little to offer. The adversaries are clumsily written and the whole endeavour seems a futile effort. A distracted political thriller that misses the target my miles.
1.5 Quints out of 5.
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