Rating: 3.5 stars
Quick take: Swara Bhaskar kills it in a deeply relevant film on women
Review: When a woman says no, it means no. It’s a thought that made Amitabh Bachchan's Pink so deeply relevant last year. Come 2017, Swara Bhaskar's little gem of a film called Anarkali Of Aarah picks up the same theme. Only there’s no urban Delhi girls fighting misogyny in a court room. This one’s about a singing girl in Bihar, standing up to a man of social and political influence. Swara Bhaskar's performance is the gritty soul of this movie. The stupendous climax is a tight feminist slap on every man who can’t respect a woman's integrity. Honest, flawed and relevant, Anarkali Of Aarah is a film worth cherishing.
Reminiscent of a recent viral video where a dancing girl was shot accidentally while performing for a rural crowd, Anarkali Of Aarah takes up the cause of young women who perform song and dance routines at local and rural parties, usually organised by politicians or men of influence. Anarkali’s mother is killed in a similar fashion, even then, the young girl chooses to follow in her mother's footsteps. Things get messy when a local college Vice Chancellor (Sanjay Mishra) makes it his life mission to chase Anarkali. He ends up misusing his power and the spirited Anarkali decides to fight back instead of being quietly exploited. Her character is mature enough to acknowledge that while she may not be a virgin, she's still got the right to say no. She fights for respect above all else.
Swara Bhaskar's bold, colourful and perfectly nuanced performance brings oodles of respect to Anarkali Of Aarah. She elevates the level of the film. Her character is that of a happy and witty singing and dancing girl. She's also a sad girl dealing with the past and then she’s also resolute in her defiance to the man's world. She's so good you could equate her to Tabu in Chandni Bar or even Smita Patil in Bhoomika.
Anarkali Of Aarah is a film seeped in rustic milieu. Its based on the band parties that perform in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, to local crowds. The film's music is tuned for the naach gaana kind of audience, the fellows who get their kicks from double entendres in folk style music. While its screenplay may not be taut, the film certainly has the right ideas. Best part is, its song and dance climax is so awesome, it leaves you with a gut wrenching lesson on women's rights. Its an inspired piece of writing, one that makes Anarkali Of Arah the definite film about a woman's courage and her right to choose.
Keeping in line with Hindi cinema's new found passion for strong women protagonists and their resilient stories, Anarkali Of Aarah is the pitch perfect lesson in relevant feminism. This one's a must watch, whether you live in a metro or in rural India.