Film: Khap (U/A)
Director: Ajai Sinha
Cast: Sarrtaj, Uvika Chaudhary, Mohnish Behl, Anooradha Patel, Om Puri, Govind Namdeo, Manoj Pahwa and others
There are films that shake you up and force you to realise that by virtue of being born in urban areas or during comparatively progressive times, we get a lot of freedom and that we must not take it for granted.
And then there are films that do make you realise that you have the liberty to choose your own life, your profession and that ends up putting you through a film that seems like a 2-hour marathon of your mom’s favourite serial.
And it probably could have something to do with the fact that director Ajai Sinha has given television two memorable serials — Hasratein and Astitva- Ek Prem Katha.
The director tells us not to look for a documentary on a serious issue and find entertainment in his story. We try to as Ria (Chaudhary) and Kush (Sarrtaj) get flirting on internet chat-rooms on their respective desktops (a touch of nostalgia maybe for those of us who’ve moved to Twitter, Facebook, BBM and Whatsapp!)
Ria’s dad Madhur (Behl) whose nightmares are made of the terrorizing verdicts of khaps against lovers wanting to marry within their gotra leaves behind his father, Omkar Chaudhary (Puri) who presides over a khap panchayat in Sajod and chooses an independent life in Delhi where his daughter can be free of such prejudices.
The alleged suicide of Surilee and Veer brings the media glare to the issue of similar-gotra love marriages and the terror of khap panchayats.
As the very urban ‘Ria’ goes around blasting at a TV set claiming that khappis are animals, completely unaware of the fact that she’s blasting at her grandpop, her father goes back to Sajod to investigate the suicides.
Circumstances bring Ria and her mom back to the village and after another torturous 5 minutes of Ria’s ‘He’s a killer’ banter, the girl takes to living in the village and starts adoring her grandpop. The villagers notice the khap president’s granddaughter’s clingy ways and eyebrows are raised.
At this point my right eye-brow shoots straight into my temple in bewilderment at which the plot moves from one sub-plot to another, and weaving its way towards a forced, preachy climax with some very weird, cheesy dialogues. And trust me, it takes a long long time to get there!
The audience doesn’t quite understand the point the director wants to make as the film collapses with a terrible screenplay laced with redundant repetition of dialogues, unnecessary bits of information, a car chase, a college romance and a small monologue by Alok Nath to defend the khap panchayats.
What’s more, the film brings down the seriousness factor of the issue at hand with silly things like a smiley that travels across Delhi to reach another computer screen and songs that are straight out of the 80s.
The film has some very talented actors essaying important roles and that is the only thing it has going for it but Uvika’s over-the-top I’m-so-cute-but-now-you-gotta-take-me-seriously performance gets so annoying that you want to see her killed, just to maintain the honour of the film or whatever is left of it.
As for Sarrtaj, he largely remains clueless, mouthing his lines with a cutesy smile and displays anger and worry with a simple twitch of his eye-brows. Puri, Behl, Namdeo and Pahwa don’t let you down and within limited means, they try to do their best.
Is this a film that will create awareness about khap panchayats?
No, sadly it isn’t. I don’t even know why the Haryana government won’t screen this film out there because even though the khaps are shown in bad light and the film calls for a change, the message is so ineffective that it will barely make an impact.