Anaarkali of Aarah movie cast: Swara Bhaskar, Pankaj Tripathy, Sanjai Mishra, Vijay Kumar, Mayur More, Ishteyak Khan, Nitin Arora
Anaarkali of Aarah movie director: Avinash Das
Anaarkali of Aarah movie rating: 3.5
Does a woman who sings and dances with abandon, whose songs use double-meaning lyrics, and who is visibly a free spirit, automatically become available to a man who pegs himself higher in the social-economic pecking order? Anaarkali of Aarah says it like it should have been, with a resounding ‘No’. And I say an equally resounding ‘yes’ to this film, helmed by a bunch of excellent actors, and a debutant director with a staunch true voice.
Actually, the name Anaarkali of Aarah doesn’t do justice to the film. The refinement of the ‘of’ makes it anodyne : it is a full-bodied, crackling film which is powered by a full-bodied, crackling performance from leading lady Swara Bhaskar, who lives her role as Aarah wali Anarkaliya (as a character calls her).
A show by the much-sought-after Anar is full ‘paisa-vasool’. She gives her clients what they want—a bawdy, rowdy time, where the innuendo-laden lines, and the suggestive ‘latkas’ and ‘jhatkas’ is all part of the deal. What’s also part of it is, once the ‘parogram’ is over, that everyone packs it in and goes home, including the nachne-gane wali kalaakar.It’s when a entitled policeman (Sanjai Mishra) crosses the line that things go horribly wrong. The feisty Anar is forced to go on the run, fetching up in the national capital, but will Delhi be more than a brief refuge? As the eponymous Anaarkali, whose name appears to be a deliberate hark back to that one who also sang and danced at the pleasure of emperors in Mughal times, Swara Bhaskar is stellar. She’s always done well as the girl who knows her mind ; here, she gets in heart as well, and lets us in into the heartbreak of a woman like her, who is no innocent (Avinash Das doesn’t make the mistake of making her a ‘doodh-ki-dhuli’ ingénue), and who clearly has made sexual choices in her past, but who draws the line at being pawed and groped without her consent. She may be laying it out in public, surrounded by mostly lusty men, but at no point is she putting out.I wasn’t as convinced with some of the things Anar is made to do when she is trying to face up to the cop : women in her position, however gutsy they may be, know when they have to retreat. In some places the inexperience shows, and the bits about ‘ashleel naach gaana band karo’, perhaps thrust in to please the censors, are left hanging.
But those are small things. It’s tough to make a film which uses lines and situations involving crudity and not turn vulgar. This is how we would expect the characters to speak : anything else would be artificial. Nowhere does the treatment in ‘Anarkali’ make you cringe, and that’s a real achievement : the director skillfully navigates the multiple tricky all-male threads, making Anar a complex creature, who reveals a playfulness when she jousts with her working partner who could also have benefits,
Rangeela (Pankaj Tripathi, is, as usual, terrific ), and an affection for her ‘mandli’ ( the camaraderie is a real thing).It’s not just Bhaskar who makes us feel that she has sprung from the place the film is set in. All the other characters— Tripathi proves he can swing a mean waist, Mishra wears his wig and his villainy with panache, Khan as the genial fellow who wants to help her ‘des ke khatir’ ( is his name ‘Hiraman’ a tribute to the Raj Kapoor character in ‘Teesri Kasam’?), and a bunch of little-known faces faces— Vijay Kumar as SHO Bulbul Pandey, Mayur More as Anwar, who helps Anar when she’s on the run–all add to the authenticity and salty flavor.The payoff seems to have been created for an upbeat ending, but we can’t help cheering when Anar rises, refuses to be cowed : whatever kind of labour it may be— which includes women who strut their stuff– dignity is paramount.Anaarkali manages to hit many marks. Bhaskar gets a lead role worthy of her. Das is a new director to watch out for. And more than anything else, it is a ladies-oriented film. Enough and more, in these dismal times.
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