Thar: Desert amidst the oasis of OTT cinema!

Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor plays an antique dealer in Thar. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

The Western is a recognized genre in Hollywood. Hindi cinema is one of a kind, despite its diverse divisions like commercial, midstream and offbeat. But the problem is when filmmakers get too overawed and influenced by the wrong kind of international cinema, as a top filmmaker recently expressed. Western, if allowed to influence Hindi films, can also give us Sholay. But mix our cinema with noir (a genre predominantly from Europe and some specific other countries) and Hindi cinema is—usually—in trouble. Or rather, the audience is!

The entire assembly of cinema from the likes of Anurag Kashyap and his followers as well as names like Vishal Bhardwaj and Ram Gopal Varma (among others) clearly demarcates such movies from the films the audience has enjoyed and treasured over decades of truly evolving Hindi cinema.

And Thar is the latest in noir-inspired deviant motion pictures, of which there are just one too many examples in recent times. This especially after the advent of many such filmmakers who have come in during the last 20 years. Add their easy means of recovering their investments (read OTT platforms like Netflix in particular!) and feathering their nests to make even more of such fare!

The plot of this Western-meets-noir movie posing as Hindi cinema becomes, thus, far-less relevant than the kind of content seen in it. Here are the top examples: 1. Giant spikes are graphically shown being hammered into a man’s feet. 2. Two men are burnt alive. 3. A rat chews on human living flesh as it is trapped in a bucket tied tightly to a man’s waist.  4. One ear is sliced off. 5. A finger is chopped off. 6. A man is butchered and hung from a tree. Or maybe he is hung and then butchered. What difference does it make?

And what is the plot like? A policeman posted for long in a village (Anil Kapoor) is jolted out of his years of complacency with a brutal murder, and a series of deplorable incidents in a village close to the Rajasthan-Pakistan border. Then there is rampant opium smuggling going on across this border, led by a Pakistani named Hanif Khan (Rahul Singh). So wonder why the cops were still lazing around for years?

But leave it, for we are in Anurag Kashyap’s protégé, actor turned writer-director Raj Singh Chaudhary’s terrain (with Kashyap as “dialogue” writer), not John Matthew Matthan’s Sarfarosh mode. So we focus on the vendetta angle, to get to which you have to bear this cringe-worthy saga of 108 minutes.

We have this mysterious young man named Siddharth (Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor) who claims he is a dealer in antiques. He is loaded, and offers three villagers good money for jobs in the city. They leave with him. But he returns to stay in the first man (Jitendra Joshi)’s hut, with his sexually-deprived and infertile wife (Fatima Sana Shaikh), stating that her dominating husband has suggested that he stay there for a while.

And what of the violent sequences we mentioned? They fit somewhere into this plotline and its conclusion!

The tragedy of such grotesque narratives is the few virtues that come up in them. Anil Kapoor is gritty as the cop, a tad scared, sometimes perplexed, often gutsy, wry in his resigned posting and lack of promotion. The cinematography (Shreya Dev Dube with Jay Oza and Swapnil Sonawane) emits a haunting atmosphere when needed, and captures the arid vistas of the Thar desert (after which this film is named!) as well as dark indoors brilliantly. Ajay Jayanthi’s background music is largely effective. And Fatima Sana Shaikh is scorching and desolate as needed.

If you are ‘valorous’ enough to watch such fare, go ahead. But discretion is as always the better part of such valor!

Rating: *

Netflix presents Anil Kapoor Film & Communication Company’s Thar  Produced by: Anil Kapoor & Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor Directed by: Raj Singh Chaudhary  Written by: Raj Singh Chaudhary & Anurag Kashyap  Music: Ajay Jayanthi  Starring: Anil Kapoor, Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Satish Kaushik, Jitendra Joshi, Rahul Singh, Nivedita Bhattacharya, Mukti Mohan, Akshay Oberoi, Akkshay Gunawat & others




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