Anaarkali Of Aarah: Worth a look

MUMBAI: Just when one was expecting a week of lack-lustre films especially as some small filmmaker is releasing his or her work, comes a surprise that reinforces faith in good cinema.


Usually, region-centric films are all about violence and local Bahubalis. The gang wars, corrupt politician/police and so on. Anaarkali of Aarah puts a Bahubali in the second place and the limelight is totally on a local dancer woman who earns her living by entertaining townsfolk and those highly placed with her traditional lewd dances and suggestive lyric typical to the area.

Swara Bhaskar has taken to dancing from her mother. The film has background of gun-totting, trigger happy, lawless Bihar and so when alcohol combines with eroticism of any kind, a gun goes off. Swara has seen her mother being shot dead for no reason by an influential man at one such dancing session. It was considered to be a manly thing to do for creating fear among townsfolk.

Having learnt the ropes while watching her mother, Swara knows nothing else but to follow her mother’s profession, dance to entertain and titillate. Endowed with a powerful voice and all the dance moves that can drive her viewers crazy, she has become a super star of her locality. When she passes on the road, the traffic stops, so to say. As Aarah has only human traffic, the crowds drop what they are doing and gape at her.

This time, Swara has been asked to perform at a function organised by the police. The function is open to public and the chief guest is a man close the state Chief Minister and the Vice Chancellor of the local university, Sanjai Mishra, a much respected man in the area. He drinks on the sly to keep his clean image, and is a closet debauch.

While Swara is dancing at the function, the devil in Mishra comes out of the closet. Drunk till the gills, he climbs the stage, joins the dancing and almost rapes her in public view. Swara ends the scene with a tight slap on Mishra’s face.

The film now runs short of ideas and gets into a rut as Mishra and the local cop try with all their might against her including an attempt on her life till, finally, she is forced to flee to Delhi. Considering Swara has been projected as a strong willed woman, the parts while she is in Delhi are a bit against her character while also being tame for the viewer.

The climax, though not new, is made effective by the actors involved and one leaves the cinema with a positive word for the film.

Anaarkali of Aarah, though a regional theme, is a well thought of script and can be identifiable with a woman’s situation all over. It is a well-conceived and executed film by writer-director Avinash Das. The film is well endowed with Bihari situational longs with double-meaning lyrics which keep the story going. The film needs some editing in its second half of scenes of Swara indulging in self-pity. Dialogue are in tune with the theme, bold but not vulgar.

What, finally really lifts the film are the performances by the artistes. While the protagonist Swara Bhaskar and the antagonist Sanjai Sharma are outstanding, with Swara excelling, and every other actor on the screen lives his/her role.

Worth a watch but lack of face value will keep Anaarkali of Aarah down.

Producers: Priya Kapur, Sandip Kapur.

Director: Avinash Das.

Cast: Swara Bhaskar, Sanjay Mishra, Pankaj Tripathi.


Phillauri: Soulless!

Phillauri bases its story around various superstitions rampantly followed by people and their solutions, as defined by the pundits, which neutralise ill effects borne out of superstitions. There are stories about a girl marrying a sword, a tree, a dog and so on. The idea being, if one’s first marriage has to fail, let it be with a dog or a tree. (Marriage with a sword represented its owner in his absence.)

There are some who grew up with the popular comic character, Casper The Friendly Ghost. As films go, with a ghost as a character one recalls Mani Kaul’s Duvidha (1973) as one such film based in Rajasthan. The film though a sleep inducer, was later adapted by Amol Palekar as Paheli with Shah Rukh Khan in lead as well as the producer.

There were other films like Chamatkar and Bhootnath franchise based on ghost stories.

Phillauri is meant to be a comedy blended with romance using superstition as the prop. Suraj Sharma (Life Of Pi) is on way to India from Canada to marry his childhood love, Mehreen Pirzada.

But, Suraj is a Manglik, one whose married life is affected due to ill effects of the planet Mars. To ward off this problem, the astrologers have a suggestion. Accordingly, Suraj is married off to a tree which is later chopped off.

Unknown to Suraj, the tree was home to the soul of Anushka Sharma for many decades. Now she hovers around Suraj as a ghost. He is scared of her but eventually comes to terms with her presence.

The soul of Anushka came to the tree and has a back story about her unrequited love with Diljit Dosanjh. Anushka was drawn to poetry writing and music and Diljit being a singer, love happens.

The film traverses between past and present as it narrates both stories. What happens is, while the present is fun to an extent, the past hinders the pace.

Balancing past and present stories has been tried earlier but has not accounted for smooth narration. The idea, similar to the English movie Corpse Bride, an animated film of 2005, manages a few light moments and drags as it fails to make audiences sit for a long duration as it stretches to 137 minutes. The film’s music sounds soulful in the film. Cinematography and special effects are good, especially the way Anushka’s ghost is presented. The film uses Punjabi language extensively while also going for a Punjabi ambience similar to Vicky Donor (2012).

Anushka Sharma lives up to her role. Diljit Dosanjh is good in a brief role. Suraj Sharma is very good. Mehreen Pirzada is okay.

Phillauri is too slow, and universal appeal and the weak opening are its setbacks.

Producers: Anushka Sharma, Karmesh Sharma, Fox Star Studios.

Director: Anshai Lal.

Cast: Anushka Sharma, Diljit Dosanjh, Suraj Sharma.

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