Apoorva Lakhia’s “Haseena Parkar” is a film that is more concerned with making money than it is about telling the true story of that rare woman who made it to the top in the underworld. Why else would you see Haseena as a young bride in 1976, watching a movie and sipping on a brand of bottled water that definitely did not exist during the period? There is a time and place for brand promotions, but this is not it.
Authenticity is not the only thing that suffers in the film. Lakhia is more concerned with sanitising events so as to make his heroine as blameless as possible. Bollywood has made many gangster films, many of them based on Dawood Ibrahim’s life, but all of them have shied away from depicting the gangster as a person with varying shades of grey. Lakhia is no different. Parkar intervenes in disputes only because she wants to be a good Samaritan. She bullies builders and landowners, but only because they harass the poor. Every bad deed is cloaked as a good one, doing both the film and its subject a huge disservice.
In real life, Parkar was an authority in her own right – a powerful woman who is said to have controlled and expanded her brother’s business in India. But Lakhia’s film remains ambiguous about Haseena’s businesses and instead portrays her as the victim of police excesses and her brother’s crimes.
Dawood Ibrahim is never named, but everything else about him is spelled out loud – from his policeman father and rivalry with the Karim Lala gang and the Arun Gawli gang to his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts.
The entire film is told in flashback, as public prosecutor Roshni Satam (obviously modelled on advocate Rohini Salian) recounts Haseena’s troubled past while trying to pin her down in an extortion case. Haseena stares down at the lawyer disdainfully, her mouth full of tobacco, and drawls out cryptic answers like, “You have read about my brother, but I have read my brother”.
The quality of acting doesn’t help either. As Haseena, Shraddha Kapoor is obviously out of her depth. She tries to act the part, donning a fake suit and dark skin tone to depict an aging Haseena, but none of it can make up for her lack of acting talent. As Dawood, Siddhanth Kapoor is even more caricaturish, widening his eyes and scowling every time he is expected to emote.
“Haseena Parkar” is yet another film in the long line of hagiographies that Bollywood tends to pass off as gangster films. That a person can be evil and still lead an interesting life worth recounting seems to be beyond the imagination of our film-makers.