Friday, August 26, 2011


The Deadlier One

The film begins with Kipling's quote about the female of the species being deadlier than the male. Which pretty much fits the lead character in Lalit Marathe's film, which inexplicably took a very long time to come out, therefore dulling its impact.

Shabri (Eesha Koppikar) lives with her parents and younger brother in a slum. Marathe establishes right away that she is a hard-working no-nonsense girl-- unmarried and, for that strata now past the age.  She works in a flour mill to support her family, and tries to keep her kid brother Bandya away from the world of crime and easy money that lures so many poor young men. Bandya is impressed by Murad (Raj Arjun) a small time matka (gambling) operator, whose attraction to Shabri makes him turn Bandya away repeatedly.

As it happens in so many such films, it is the innocent Bandya who is rounded up by the cops and killed.  Shabri,  in her matter-of-fact manner, simply goes and shoots the cop who did it. Then she goes on the run with Murad, helped by his aide Vikas (Manish Wadhwa).

Arun in with the men of the city's poweful matka don Rajdharbhau (Pradeep Rawat) results in the death of his brother,which in turn ends with the brutal killing of Murad.

Shabri now wows to kill Rajdharbhau and goes about it in a determined manner. Till the appearance of an eccentric cop Irfan Kazi (Zakir Hussain), the film is as direct as its protagonist-- whose peculiar walk seems to define her.  Kazi brings to the proceedings an unwanted 'filmi' air.  He wanders around provoking and instigating everybody, and says what he is looking for is entertainment.
That, unfortunately is one key element missing in Marathe's black-and-white film.  Had it been released when it was made, the novelty of a female assassin would have probably got it some footfalls.  But by now, Bollywood has had its fill of gritty gangster films from the RGV factory, and Shabri, earnest though it may be, is not outstanding enough to work as a standalone film.

The character Marathe has created remains interesting, however-- she is plain, unsmiling and always dressed in a simple sari, even when she is running or jumping over walls.  Koppikar plays her with a grim ferocity that both attracts and repels-- had the film  come out in time, who knows where her career would have headed.


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