Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

April 2, 2010

Failure to launch

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 1:39 am

April 02, 2010

Cast: Maradona Rebello, Bipasha Basu, Lilette Dubey

Director: Sudipto Chattopadhyay

Pankh starring newcomer Maradona Rebello, is the disturbing story of a young man grappling with the psychological side-effects of being passed off as a girl in his childhood years.

The film picks up the important and delicate issue of gender confusion and sexual identity, but treats the story in such a pretentious and heavy-handed manner that it’s sometimes hard to empathize with the protagonist’s pain.

Set within the Mumbai film industry, director Sudipto Chattopadhyay’s tale involves a failed actress (played by Lillete Dubey) who masquerades her son as a girl so he can land roles in Bollywood films. This successful child actress grows into the confused youngster whose mother is now pushing him towards a career as a leading man in Hindi films.

Over the years our protagonist has created the illusion of a friend in a highly successful film actress (played by Bipasha Basu), with whom he has imaginary conversations. On a visit to an audition one day, his head is filled with memories of old friends and lecherous filmmakers from his childhood years, and as it turns out things aren’t very different today.

Pankh is provocative and unsettling, but in an exploitative way. There is much bad language used by practically all the characters, and there are gratuitous scenes of molestation which seem voyeuristic and sensational.

The film, which comes off just as confused as its protagonist, cannot decide if it wants to focus on the sleazy side of the Hindi film industry, or on the psychological impact of forced cross-dressing.

Astonishingly bad acting from all principal players and the loose structure of the screenplay make Pankh difficult to endure. Despite a running time of only 90 minutes, it’s a film that requires much patience on your part.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for director Sudipto Chattopadhyay’s Pankh. An important story gets shortchanged by indulgent direction. Such a shame!

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