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KHAP  : Not everyone’s ‘khap’ of tea
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Friday, July 29, 2011
Ajai Sinha
Om Puri, Yuvika, Govind Namdeo, Mohnish Behl, Yuvika, Sarrtaj
A morbid tale of the Khap panchayat and the currently hot issue of honor killings.
The plot: The events take place in a remote part of India where Khap rules and two different worlds collide over a love story which the modern world would consider innocuous.  Impelled by a diktat from Khap panchayat president Chowdhary (Om Puri), Daulat Singh (Govind Namdeo) kills his own son and the daughter of Sukhbir (Manoj Pahwa) when they try to elope from the village, defying the unwritten but immovable rule of not marrying into the same gothra.  But when the self-styled guardians of the old order try doing the same thing to lovers Riya (Yuvika) and Khush (Sarrtaj) who come to the village from Delhi and challenge their supremacy in a way no one ever dared to do, they find that they’ve taken on more than they bargained for. From this point on it’s nothing but mayhem till the lovers finally unite.

The good: Director Ajai Sinha, best known for his TV shows like Hasratein, Astitva, Justujoo and Ghar Ek Sapna, does his utmost to keep the viewers engrossed. But his efforts flag with a time-worn plot which fails to connect with viewers. The music by Anujj Kappoo, with songs sung by ace singers like Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Shaan, Shreya Ghoshal, Jagjit Singh and Rekha Bhardwaj is melodious, but doesn’t take the story forward.What salvages the film somewhat are the sincere performances from almost every actor in the film and the punchy, albeit clichéd dialogues. Sarrtaj is a watered-down version of Sammir Dattani but Yuvika impresses with her effortless portrayal of a city girl who revolts against the system of honor killings in the village. Om Puri and Manoj Pahwa stand out with their remarkably convincing performances. Om Puri in particular impresses as the helpless father who oscillates between his rigid stand as the Khap panchayat president and the parent who is grief-stricken when his own son raises the banner of revolt against him and leaves the village.

The bad: Khap doesn’t fall in the genre of offbeat films, nor does it qualify to be a part of mainstream cinema. Mohnish Bahl is as tepid as his role, while Anooradha Patel hardly has a single worthwhile scene. There is nothing out of the ordinary to recommend the film as it simply plods along. To irritate the viewer further, the director intersperses the dull narrative with a song every now and then. The film is particularly tedious after interval.

Overall: At a time when inter-caste and inter-religious marriages have ceased to shock audiences, a film like Khap looks far too feudal for comfort. It comes across as old-fashioned and outdated, though the filmmaker sets out to tell audiences that honor killings happen even today in remote India.The extra ½ star is for the performances.

–   Jyothi Venkatesh

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