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Indu Sarkar  : A Period Without Finesse
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Friday, July 28, 2017
Madhur Bhandarkar
Anupam Kher, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Kirti Kulhari, Parvin Dabas, Ankur Vikal, Supriya Vinod, Zakir Hussain, Sheeba Chaddha, Tota Roy Chowdhury

It’s a strange combination of the subtle and the sledgehammer that Madhur Bhandarkar comes up with. The title is cleverly double-edged. Indu Sarkar is leading lady Kirti Kulhari’s name in the film. But it could also stand for Indira Gandhi, Indu for short, and her sarkar. Especially the dark chapter that Indira presided over in 1975, the dreaded Emergency that Madhur puts on celluloid.


There’s also polish in the metaphor of a citizen trying to find her voice with the filmmaker casting Indu as a woman who’s been stuttering since her childhood.


But the telling itself has all the delicacy of the bulldozers that heartlessly razed the tenements of the underprivileged during the infamous Emergency. The Turkman Gate controversy as it later came to be known is laid out with all the starkness of Madhur’s trademark cinema. It’s slam-bang and goodbye to subtlety.


The ruthlessness with which Sanjay Gandhi carried out his family planning programme where even senior citizens or the young unmarried were forcibly sterilized is hammered homethough the party leader is not directly named. The underground movement that sought to put the excesses of the Emergency under a global spotlight has thriller elements. And it’s interesting that Madhur wrote in a fictional husband-wife divide over the Emergency.


However, the big stumble is the old-fashioned writing like flashbacks to Indu’s childhood in the orphanage and the many rejections encountered because she stammers. This includes families that crudely size her up for marriage. Or the no-longer-in-vogue style of a crooner in a gown at a party or the all-too-familiar setting of a qawali going on while the bad guy and his cronies look on. Also, orphaned kids after a demolition drive that tug at Indu’s heart but not at the viewer’s. And an unimpressive arm candy that the PM’s son took everywhere which those familiar with the Emergency would recognise as Rukhsana Sultan right away. 


On the other hand, Kirti Kulhari does an efficient job in the title role. Neil Nitin Mukesh brings required arrogance and meanness to his portrayal of who we presume is Sanjay Gandhi. Tota Roy Chowdhury is fine as Indu’s husband but a more recognised face would’ve worked better.


Ultimately, one backs Madhur’s intentions of wanting to narrate a shameful period of our democracy.


For a well-researched fact and fiction plot which just required more freshness in the telling, Indu Sarkar gets a 2.5* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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