‘Pagla Ghoda’ a dark probing look at human bondage

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Mumbai, May 30 (IANS) Badal Sarkar’s powerful desperately probing play about how patriarchal tyranny can destroy all claims of female empowerment has got a brightly-lit searching persuasive incendiary and long-limbed treatment by director Bikas Mishra in “Pagla Ghoda”.

Mishra doesn’t mind penetrating dark alleys and side roads of filmmaking where most filmmakers would just like to avoid going.

Starring Chitrangada Chakraborty, Gopal KA Singh, Anshuman Jha, Ravi Khanvilkar and Vikram Kochar, the film is out on Hotstar on Tuesday.

Sarkar’s play is put on film like a brooding discursive chamber piece replete with the anger and anguish of the original, but also supplemented with a newly-invigorated insight into the mechanics of sexual politics which are so robustly projected by the four male actors who look at love from a laconic perspective.

Each one is a secret groin-renegade more sinned than sinned against, these men are “normal” on the top. But as they talk into the night, they bring out all the blemishes, discrepancies and hypocrisies of our social order where women are less equal than men even when the men they meet are “progressive” in a twisted kind of way.

One of them, played with vulnerability and arrogance by Anshuman Jha, gets angry when his girlfriend takes a drink at a friend’s birthday — or is he angry because she refuses to have sex with him? In this way, the narrative punctures the portrait of love as we accept it, to explore the underbelly of human relationships where a moment of weakness can destroy an entire universe of faith.

The setting is the cremation of a girl. Who is she? How did she die? What is her relationship with the four men? These are not questions that need any specific answer. Director Mishra opens up the original play and plants some persuasive leads into the arguments that men in patriarchal societies put forward to support their double standards.

Each of the four men is guilty of letting a woman down at a time when she needed the man’s support. There is a pinpointed moment of reckoning when the patriarchal betrayal happens. And the play, as too the film, revels in that moment, grabs it by the waist and shakes it until the lies that control gender equations in oppressive societies, come apart.

The film is set in one ruinous room, a decadent dismantled musty and smelly legacy of a life that ceased to be intimidated by death. Driven by some tragically powerful thoughts on the dichotomy that runs through the Indian middleclass even when it assumes progressive postures, “Pagla Ghoda” is not everyone’s cup of tea.

But you can’t miss its acutely credible take on a crumbling patriarchal order. The four principal performances by veterans Ravi Kanvilkar and Gopal Singh, also the younger actors Anshuman Jha and Vikram Kochhar, are strong and supportive of the powerful material.

And Chitrangada Chakbraborty plays Everywoman. She is the victim of male ambivalence in every male protagonist’s “love” story — if you want to call it that.

–IANS

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