Mayank Shekhar's review: Lanka


By Hindustan Times
Direction: Maqbool Khan
Actors: Manoj Bajpayee, Tia Bajpai
Rating: **
The girl's a doctor. So is her dad. Goons guard their house round-the-clock. We’re in a north Indian small town, which like many, we’re
told, is essentially one man, Bhaisaab’s (Manoj Bajpayee’s) personal fiefdom. That fellow rapes the daughter every night. The father, unable to bear this’, rats on the don’s deeds to an investigative agency. The don gets to know of this. He takes the father to a brothel, threatens to sell his girl out at every such bazaar, until she can’t breathe. The girl sits muted. The father can’t believe his misfortune. The place is impenetrable.
In a pithy piece explaining the structure of commercial Hindi cinema, filmmaker Vinay Shukla argues that pretty much all major blockbusters, even recent ones, essentially bear shades of Hindu mythology. There’s Ramayan in Gadar (2001), wherein Ram (Sunny Deol) goes to fetch Sita (Ameesha Patel). The part where young Hrithik Roshan goes to bring his elder brother (Shah Rukh Khan) back into the family's fold is the ‘Bharat Milap episode from the same epic. It’s a fine observation. This picture itself is called Lanka. You can see the Sita in prison. You know Ravan. His protégé (Arjan Bajwa) plays Ram. The dark, humourless badlands belong to western Uttar Pradesh, made mainstream by Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara (2006). Picture looks real. Posturing is correct. Accents may be inconsistent, dramebaazi’s full-on.
How about a plot? A bunch of Bhaisaab’s goons try to take over a piece of land. Group gets killed. ‘Ram’ kills off all the farmers. Gang war carries on. That’s the plot.
Local IPS officer’s a slave nincompoop. The doctor whose daughter gets raped each night is the district’s chief medical officer, no less. Surely he could get a transfer, quit his job, move elsewhere as a medical professional, no? No. He asks his girl not to commit suicide. Hence she hasn’t yet. The same rule doesn't apply to him. This looks worse than Uday Hussein’s Iraq (from The Devil’s Double).
“People in Bombay will find this weird… There are so many small town girls in similar Lankas,” the film’s narrator repeatedly promises. If we could be sucked in to believing this story instead, such verbal claims would not be necessary.