Directors: Jaspal Singh Sandhu, Rajeev Barnwal
Actors: Sanjay Mishra, Neena Gupta
Surely senior citizens, in general, have a lot more time to spare. Have you wondered, though, why so many of them visit banks so often — even now, when practically all savings accounts have gone online? As with neighbours, friends, relatives — I guess retirees simply love to pay a visit to their money.
I thought that was the case with the old, leading-man in this movie, waiting across the bank teller. Nope. He actually owes money to the bank, and checks, from time to time, the status on his principal, minus interest.
The other baffling thing about the casual routine of this geriatric from Gwalior is regularly showing up at a cyber café — in the World of cheap data, plus smart phones — to place video calls, to his son abroad @300 bucks for a few minutes. Vadh is a film produced by (Reliance) Jio.
What’s more peculiar is that son on Skype, who’s the reason the old man must routinely go to the bank, and that cyber café. He’d taken big loan for his son’s study abroad. He naturally wants to know if the son, now perfectly settled with an apartment, family, can help pay off the retired man’s heavy loan. The loan is actually the son’s!
Now we’ve seen blokes from Baghban. But one look at that ungrateful progeny in this pic, and the look on your face is more likely to be of disbelief. For, no one will behave like such a moron, even if they were acting out this part in life itself.
Surely there are ingrates. Just as there must be a serious loan shark, as in this film, who bothers the old man so much — you’ll forget the wily, over-the-top ‘muneem-jis’ from Bollywood pix of the past.
Look at this filthy pig. To pick up interest money, the sick lender parks himself in the old man’s small house, and performs all the ‘unthinkables’, according to the filmmakers, at one go: eat chicken (kabab), sleep with sex worker (shabab), swig booze (sharaab).
There exists a circular extortion trade, between this gangster-lender, and the cop you could possibly complain to. The old man and his timid wife are practically trapped, totally terrified. (Sanjay) Mishra-ji plays that lower middle-class lead, Mishra-ji (Shambhunath), in this movie, set among similar upper-castes, Rathore, Singh, Pandey, etc, in middle India.
What happens with absolute small-fries, in a small town, caught in a web of an unbeatable bully, they can do nothing about? Well, they’ll have to somehow eliminate the shark, right? Laws be damned — if it’s under clutches of the oppressor anyway. Hell, that’s real fury. Heavily recommend the Netflix documentary series, Indian Predator, Season 3: Murder in a Courtroom (2022), set in Nagpur.
Vadh is similarly a film about a murder, yes. Like so many movies are—but it’s essentially an intimate pic. In the sense that Mishraji brutally knocks down his loan-shark. Crime has been committed. Audience is aware of the killer. This is a suspense-thriller then. The filmmakers approach it through a grim, desi, small-town, realistic lens. Which is why it irks much, when anything isn’t realistic/believable enough.
If the treatment was more stylised/noir — the same story could look like, say, Andhadhun (2018), if you may. Or, for that matter, Monica O My Darling (2022), based on the Japanese Keigo Higashino’s novel. The same author’s Devotion of Suspect X is being made as a Bollywood film, with Kareena Kapoor in it. Devotion, in turn, was the alleged inspiration for Drishyam (2013).
Vadh is beyond doubt a byproduct of the phenomenal commercial success of the low/medium-budget thriller, Drishyam, originally in Malayalam, and that got even better with its sequel. What the filmmakers add to the genre/space here is a strongly rugged, desi, rustic feel. What do all the suspense-thrillers mentioned above have in common? An unlikely, common person commits a serious crime.
What follows is the film, of course. Only that in this movie (perhaps the script was better), the murder itself is hardly a ‘money shot’. Its consequences don’t seamlessly add up. The prime suspect in this case, even a novice will realise, is the murderer himself. No one cares. You worry for the kind of folks employed in Gwalior Police.
Actor Manav Vij plays the main, crook cop in this movie — the same profession his fab character had in Andhadhun. Look how amazingly Vij’s career has taken off since. In 2022 alone, he wholly headlined the series Tanaav, remake of Fauda, besides pull off prominent parts in Samrat Prithviraj (Mohd Ghori), Laal Singh Chaddha (Mohd Paaji).
Easily towering above all in this pic are Mishraji, and his wife, played by Neena Gupta, of course. Both these stars are Indian film genres unto themselves — naturally reflecting desi realities, through their presence alone, like few screen performers we’ve known. We can watch them together, forever. A better movie, maybe?
Also Read: `An Action Hero` movie review: Retraction of a hero
Originally published at www.mid-day.com