Banners: Reliance Entertainment, Chalk And Cheese Films
Producers: Reliance Entertainment, Anurag Kashyap, Nidhi Parmar
Director: Tushar Hiranandani
Cast: Bhumi Pednekar, Taapsee Pannu, Prakash Jha, Viineet Kumar, Sara Arjun
Writers: Balwinder Janjua (Story & Screenplay), Jagdeep Sidhu (Dialogue)
Music: Vishal Mishra
It is not uncommon in Bollywood to see actors in their 30s and 40s play college students and/or romance heroines much younger than them. What is uncommon is seeing them age on screen and play fathers or even grandfathers. Actresses, on the other hand, are forced to play mothers to actors older to them the moment they cross a certain age. But in recent times there has definitely been a change in the scenario and Saand Ki Aankh sets several precedents in this direction. We not only have two popular and young actresses playing characters in their 60s but also headlining the film that too without the support of any swashbuckling lead actor. Saand Ki Aankh has several plus points to its credit even if we put aside the age debate. It is a bold and cheerful piece of cinema, with a heavy dose of feminism. That it is based on the lives of shooter daadis- Chandro Tomar and Prakashi Tomar- who took up shooting by fighting against all odds including being brought up and living in a cloistered environment all their lives and already being grandmothers to grownup children, makes for some rather inspiring cinema.
Chandro and Prakashi Tomar are friends who married to the younger brothers of Ratan Singh Tomar who runs the household on his terms and conditions. Nestled in Johri village in Uttar Pradesh, the world of these women revolves around taking care of their several children and then grandchildren, backbreaking work in the fields, and then returning to the confined four walls of their house and doing endless household chores. Their husbands just smoke the hookah and laze around the whole day while the women and girls of the housework day in and day out.
But all this changes one day, when Dr Yashpal, who had left Johri to pursue medicine, returns to set up a shooting range. He tries to convince the villagers to send their children to the range. He says that if they are able to excel in the sport, it will open up government jobs. The boys of the village turn up, but they are least interested. Chandro sees this as an opportunity for her granddaughter Shefali. She takes her to Yashpal and asks him to train her. Shefali is scared at first, but to encourage her, Chandro picks up the gun and shoots. And she hits Bull’s eye! Yashpal is surprised and insists that she come to the range with Shefali and practice. Very soon Prakashi also joins the range with her daughter Seema. The foursome sneak out of the home early in the morning to practice. Hiding their shooting escapades from the men of the house, they travel to different cities to participate in tournaments under some pretext or another. Chandro and Prakashi keep winning medals wherever they go and become famous as Shooter Dadis all this while keeping the news from reaching their home.
All seems to be going well when Yashpal announces that Shefali and Seema have been selected for the National shooting camp, a 45 day camp in New Delhi. The only way that the girls can go is to let the men of the household know the truth. Chandra and Prakashi muster the courage to tell Ratan Singh and his brothers the truth.
What happens when the Tomar brothers find out what their wives have been up to? Are Seema and Shefali able to attend the camp? Are the dadis able to continue their shooting? All that and more is revealed as the story unfolds.
Tushar Hiranandani makes his directorial debut with this film and there couldn’t be a better subject for him to leave a mark. The film inspired by the lives of the real-life shooters dadis who are also sisters-in-law is entertaining from the word go. What works in the film’s favour is the writing. Balwinder Janjua, the man behind the story and screenplay, does not give us a typical story of women in distress waiting to be rescued. Instead, the Tomar women are driven and strong enough to save themselves. Jagdeep Sidhu’s dialogue is funny and at the same time provides the right punches when needed. The use of voiceover through the character of Shefali to guide the audience through the proceedings is executed well.
The director and his team ensure that every second of the film remains about the two women. There are no evil villains, nor is there any knight-in-shining armour to save the women. The fact that the writing steers away from these clichés of women-oriented films is a huge plus for Saand Ki Aankh. Add to this the cinematography by Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti as his lens beautifully captures the rural life of India, the editing chops of Devendra Murdeshwar- quick and efficient, Vishal Mishra’s delightful music- Baby gold, Aasma, Jhunna jhunna being a few gems, Raj Shekhar’s poignant lyrics and an engaging background score by Advait Nemlekar, and we have quite an entertaining film on hand. The only let down is the makeup of the leading ladies. Their aged look is just not convincing enough. If only more care would have been taken in this department, it would have made the film almost perfect.
Bhumi Pednekar as Chandro Tomar and Taapsee Pannu as Prakashi Tomar share an amazing chemistry on screen. Their camaraderie is the USP of the film. The actresses get into their roles with ease and ace every scene they are in. While Taapsee manages to capture the grit and determination of Prakashi, Bhumi as Chandro is an absolute delight and there are moments when she shines brighter than all other actors in the film. Prakash Jha’s controlled performance does not make Rattan Singh an over-the-top villain. Viineet Kumar as Dr Yashpal gives a balanced performance as he happily lets the daadis shine.
Verdict: Not to be missed!