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Mardaani...If you say so!

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MUMBAI: There have been some women cop stories. But not many have succeeded. Vijayashanti’s Tejashwini was one that worked while Dimple Kapadia’s Zakhmi Aurat did not work. Women oriented action films are rare and far in-between because usually they don’t work at the box office. 

Rani Mukerji is an angry woman cop with the Mumbai Police Crime Branch. She can take on anyone. She is efficient, well-versed with the law and can throw punches like an action-film hero. Hence she is described as Mardaani. To this end, the customary fight scene in the beginning establishes that: she keeps slapping a goon as she lists the penal codes under which he can be arrested. She does not arrest him because that would have added extra length to the film unnecessarily; the idea was only to demonstrate her powers and bravery.

Rani has rescued a young girl, Priyanka Sharma, who was on verge of being sold.Rani sort of adopts her even though the girl lives at a shelter for such children. In the day time, the girl sells flowers at traffic signals where she is spotted by a woman who adds her to her list of girls to be kidnapped. There is a very organised and clever bunch of people behind the kidnapping of young girls and running a child sex trafficking ring. Rani keeps in touch with Priyanka on regular basis but when she does not see her for few days, Rani suspects she is kidnapped.

Rani keeps getting lucky with clues through the film and soon picks up the man who sold Priyanka. However, the criminals are a step ahead and shoot the man. He is killed while in the police van with an inspector by his side. Oddly, there is no glass shattered even though the man has been shot in the back of his head. For Rani, Priyanka’s kidnapping has become personal and she chases up after the leads as her mission. All she knows about the villain is his voice as he keeps in touch with her on her cell. He loves this kind of game.

Producer: Aditya Chopra.

Director: Pradeep Sarkar.

Cast: Rani Mukerji, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Priyanka Sharma.

The girls kidnapped are then decked up and paraded before interested clients who prefer sex with small girls. Among them is also a VIP politician. Of course, since such a business needs patronage from high and mighty. The villain, Tahir Raj Bhasin, operates with the help of his father who is the mastermind and also deals in drugs. This is convenient for Rani and she sends two Nigerians as decoys offering to sell 5kg of drugs, something only a big buyer would be interested in. The father-son duo fall for this trap. Bhasin is about to reach where his father is concluding the deal when Rani and her men raid the place. The father is trapped but kills himself while locked in a bathroom rather than be caught as they would make him talk and Bhasin would be caught too. But this father had one bad habit, getting his pants and shirts stitched from a tailor whose labels he never thought of removing.

Rani traces the villains’ house through the tailor and recces it for a couple of days before she enters it all ready to be caught expecting to be taken where the girls are kept. She succeeds. It is time for some action for taaliyaan.

Mardaani depends heavily on Rani and this film, having been made for her, avoids any other known face. The villain is new and hardly menacing enough. Without a strong villain, mard or mardaani don’t amount to much. Rani is okay trying to be a real cop mouthing Bambaiya bad words. Bhasin is passable despite having a weak character. Priyanka does well. The film has no songs except a theme song. Direction is average and the making is generally economical. Background score tries to create thrills that don’t exist. Dialogue is routine with no claptrap one-liners.

Katiyabaaz….. Of another world

The title does not quite convey what this docu-feature is all about. That’s not surprising, since it is a colloquial word used in Uttar Pradesh to refer to power thieves, the guys who are experts in cutting through heavy duty electric cables to attach illegal connections. This is an all-India phenomena but happens mostly in states with severe power shortages and UP leads on this count. Hence, the events depicted are based in Kanpur, once industrial thriving city now fallen on bad days.

Producers: Deepti Kakkar, Fahad Mustafa

Directors: Farhad Mustafa, Deepti Kakkar.

Cast: Ritu Maheshwari, Loha Singh and local and national politicians.

Katiyabaaz juxtaposes two versions of the story: that of a renowned power thief and of the chairperson of the Kanpur Electricity supply board, a lady by the name of Ritu Maheshwari. The politicians playing up the public against the power supply board is inevitable. Politicians fail to build infrastructure and then incite the masses against the board.

Ritu is the new chief at the Kanpur KESCO, who has sworn to put an end to power stealing to bring some stability to the company. Loha Singh, the celebrated power thief, is not scared of either the KESCO or the police; he is not even scared of shocks having survived many. While Ritu strives to plug all the gaps, Loha thrives in his business of giving people illegal connections for a fee. Ritu has a huge problem on her hands. To make matters worse, some of her own staffers are involved in encouraging thefts, either for money or out of fear. They are no support to her. To top it all the theft causes transformers to catch fire and causes power outages lasting from hours to days. And trying to make the most of the situation is the local SP MLA, Irfan Solanki, who leads a revolt against the power company since the 2012 assembly elections are round the corner. It is BSP rule in the state and SP wants to come back to power. It is typical politics, UP style. It is not just UP politicians: the feature also depicts Dr Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi criticising the functioning of the Kanpur Electric company. Poor Ritu!

The makers have used all real life characters who were part of these events and covered the versions of Loha Singh, the almost revered power thief aka Katiyabaaz because of whom many small scale industries survive in Kanpur as against the views of Ritu.

In the end, Ritu is sacked from her post and Irfan Solanki is re-elected as MLA, this time as his party, SP, wins a majority. Loha continues with his business as usual. Loha is a natural facing the camera; he is not scared of power company or the police but he is also not scared of owning up to everything on a camera!

Katiyabaaz is being released in about 40 screens since it is not a regular entertainer. Yet, it is informative and an eye-opener.

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