Mayank Shekhar's Review: Antardwand

By Hindustan Times

Director: Sushil Rajpal
Actors: Raj Singh Chaudhary, Akhilendra Mishra
Rating: ***

First, compateeson (competition); then, byaah (wedding). These two simple steps have traditionally defined middle class Bihar’s aspirational ladder. It’s also been for long the feudal obsession of a poor, politically active state.

The competition stands for the IAS, an exam that carries with it a 35-plus years’ warranty of unfettered power and illegitimate wealth. Successful candidates at this annual UPSC test are transported right across to the local marriage mart. Where fresh civil servants fetch highest prices among prospective grooms. The conveyer belt is set. Value for money is guaranteed. So is status for the allied families, in the eyes of samaaj (society). The couple itself getting wedded is not the point.

AntardwandThe hero here (Raj Singh Chaudhary, fine casting), is a graduate student in Delhi, and one such strong candidate. He’s likely to clear the Mains (second hurdle of the IAS exams), as he does later. His father, a social investor (Vinay Pathak), is strongly positioned to extract the best (dowry) deal for his son.

Such cash cows make local news. The father should be careful. The boy, on his way back from the family home, gets abducted in broad daylight. The goons belong to a neighbouring village. They lock him up in a cowshed. He must agree to wedlock. They beat his body to pulp, save the face, of course. The girl’s not known to the boy. He’s already secretly engaged to a girlfriend back in the city. It’s a visible nightmare.

Such shotgun affairs are popularly called jabariya weddings in the region. They’re mostly prevalent among the state’s poor, who can’t afford pressures of dowry and massive ceremonies to marry off their daughter, a social burden. Like the boy’s own father, a feared figure, the abductor -- the bride’s dad (Akhilendra Mishra, crackling show) -- belongs but to the landed rich. They have ‘connections to the top’, a key survival kit for any lawless state.

It’s more a battle of the moocch (the moustache) then. Women, the more ca