Thar Movie Review: Shines in starkness, dims in darkness

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Thar
Dir: Raj Singh Chaudhary
U/A: Thriller, drama
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor, Satish Kaushik
Rating: 3

Should Thar be known as the third collaboration between Anurag Kashyap and Anil Kapoor? Technically, it could. After the still-born Allwyn Kalicharan and the middling AK vs AK, here’s a film starring AK with dialogues written by AK. Elevating it are director Raj Singh Chaudhary, cinematographer Shreya Dev Dubey, and composer Ajay Jayanthi, trying their darndest to make a mark, and boy do they succeed. 

Well past an hour into the movie, I remained hooked, despite not knowing how all that I had seen before is going to be glued together. Of course, the movie failed in the final third. But did it disappoint me? Not at all; in fact, it left me satisfied. Here’s a team that has pulled off such a difficult feat, I can assure you they are 
only going to get better with time. 

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The desert’s always been a great place to set films in, across the world—and a cinematographer’s delight. Thar is a great new addition to that sub-genre. If you like sweeping, stark visuals, this is the film for a good weekend night, especially a feast for Oled owners who can do a dark room. I really worry for people who choose to watch this Netflix release on other screens. You might be disappointed. 

The first hour of the movie is a breeze. To fill you in, Anil Kapoor plays a classic Tommy Lee Jones/Clint Eastwood version of himself—a middling cop nearing retirement, staring at a jurisdiction full of gore in the lawless badlands. Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor plays a mysterious visitor to a town full of intriguing characters. How they eventually meet, and why, and what happens next is the rest of the film. One strand hints at cross-border drug smuggling from across Pakistan into Rajasthan, and the other is about disturbing murders befitting a serial killer film. 

The director, along the way, strews nods to countless classics. To my untrained eye, the best was the salute to the most underrated film in one of the most successful movie franchises ever. The passage made me want to learn more about rats. While we are here, the violence—be it mere physical or sexual—is quite graphic. Be warned. 

 If you were to divide this film’s screen time, the landscape wins over the actors. That’s how good the filming of the terrain is. As for the actors, Kapoor Sr excels, and we have a deglam Satish Kaushik (no, even I didn’t expect I would ever write those words; but you’ll see what I mean when you watch the film), and a stunning Fatima Sana Shaikh, fetishised with one too many lungshot than necessary, which would probably be the only misstep Chaudhary has made outside of the last third. 

 Having said all that, I loved the fact that this film got made. It’s a sign of times that Mr Kapoor chose such a vehicle to soft-boost Jr’s fledgling career. At worst, you could call this a nepo pic. At its best, you would call this a great father-son collaboration in Bollywood’s annals. That is to director Chaudhary’s credit. 

Me? I am still wondering how this would have turned out if Raj Rao played Jr’s role. You let me know.

Originally published at www.mid-day.com

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