Saand Ki Aankh: Heart-warming but lacks true grit

Film: Saand Ki Aankh

Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Bhumi Pednekar, Prakash Jha, Vineet Kumar Singh, Kuldip Sarin, Shaad Randhawa, Pawan Sharma, Himanshu Sharma, Navneet Srivastav, Nikhat Khan

Director: Tushar Hiranandani

Rating: * * *

An inspirational true-life story about two 60-year-old married women (who most might consider well past their active years), belonging to a highly conservative, traditional, restrictive household in Johri, Baghpat, UP (yr.1999) doing the unthinkable – breaking out from a patriarchal stranglehold to blaze triumphant sporting careers (as shooting champions), is the stuff dreams are made of. But debutant director Tushar Hiranandani’s ‘Saand Ki Aankh,’ unlike the two protagonists it hopes to exalt, uses a path well-trod, and rather predictably, to make this point heard and seen.

Hiranandani’s film, which was also chosen as the Closing film of the recently concluded 21st Jio MAMI film festival, is not interested in subtly essaying that unique, hard-fought trajectory of true grit and against-all-odds triumph. Plagued by an under-researched and structurally weak scripting effort from Balwinder Singh Janjua and coupled with unrealistic dialogues from Jagdeep Sandhu, this effort, though heart-warming, fails to rise beyond the matter-of-fact.

Taking a leaf from the 2012 Satyamev Jayate show that featured the two ace shooters’ talking about their ‘silver innings’ achievements i.e. winning State and National level shooting championships well after becoming grandmothers – the writer imagines a set-up that looks rather factitious and veers towards caricature. Nuggets from real life including self-styled training routines (like holding a jug filled with water, with the arm sticking out straight, for several minutes, in the dead of the night and shooting at scarecrows in the fields) are included in the narrative but they fail to evoke awe or affect.

It’s a pity that this biopic co-produced by Anurag Kashyap no less, fails to underline the gravity of the hurdles the two women faced while in the process of blazing their own trail. Hiranandani’s film goes through the paces, showing the women doing all the work at home and fields while their husbands do nothing but fill–up their wombs, order them about or take whiffs from the traditional hookah. The point he is making is that the women, Sisters-in-law, Chandro (Bhumi) and Prakasho (Tapsee) Tomar have over time forged a steely physicality and resolve that is instrumental in them being able to ace it at the shooting range.

Montages of the ace Dadis’ hardships don’t evoke much feeling and it’s left to the dialogue to put forward their resilience and inventiveness in achieving their goals. The background score meant to lend effectiveness to this telling, is rather loud – atrophying the gritty connect of real life inspiration. The male characters are one note and even Prakash Jha’s typically contemptible, dictatorial patriarch, sarpanch, Rattan Singh Tomar, fails to enhance the woebegone dramatics here.

Vineet Kumar Singh, as the Doctor who gives up his practice to bring about change, is efficient enough. But it’s really the women who steal a march on the men here. The bachpan after pachpan, rewired womaniya, who believe ‘Sharir budha hota hai, Man nahin’ are put forward in glorious form by Bhumi and Tapsee (and this despite terribly inconsistent make-up and shabby prosthetics) and its basically, their performances that give this rather indolently plotted, inconsistently laid out film a reason for cheer!