Saturday, January 19, 2013


Oh No!

There’s an informal inquiry committee set up in Inkaar, to investigate the charges of sexual harassment that the creative director of an ad agency had levied against the company’s CEO. 

In a few minutes Sudhir Mishra sets up the possible clichéd reaction, like an oily type, saying “I never needed (needed?) sexual harassment.”  And a smirking woman saying, “He never sexually harassed me, unfortunately.”  And you can see that the director is not taking the expected route of making this a pro-female film by showing what so many women go through at work. Nor does he want to stick his neck out and say that successful and powerful men can sometimes be framed by ambitious women.

He dithers—perhaps deliberately—between one side and the other, and then drops the hot potato into a territory so unlikely and so ridiculous that it’s pathetic. A filmmaker of Mishra’s antecedents should have made a more courageous film.

The structure— of the inquiry committee intercut with flashbacks—is reminiscent of The Social Network and takes the audience through a rather superficial understanding of how ambition, chauvinism, harassment and vindictiveness works, in the relatively rarified environs of an ad agency.

The CEO Rahul (Arjun Rampal—bland)) is given a kind of fuzzy background with a dad who teaches him to scrap in the playground like a man; but no other glimpses into his personal life. He is single, presumably commitment phobic, but is he a sexual predator? That area is left blank.

Maya (Chitrangda Singh--overacting) is raw recruit, a small town girl with talent and drive, who is groomed by Rahul and rises to the top. The office gossip machine goes into overdrive; as it happens often in real life, a woman’s achievements are dismissed with ‘she slept with the boss.’  At the same time, it can’t be denied that many women are willing to do ‘anything’ to succeed. Mishra lets this one go without comment.

Maya takes a transfer from the Mumbai office and returns from New York after seven years with  fiancé and a promotion, to find Rahul getting nasty.  What Mishra shows in the span of two days when a social worker (Deepti Naval) and the agency colleagues listen to both sides of the story, is not so much sexual harassment as a Pygmalion complex gone awry. Rahul’s problem is that his protégée overtook him, her gender is not that important, he would probably have acted the same way had Maya been a man.

Workplace harassment and discrimination against women—both professional and social— are serious issues and needed a better thought out film, than a crude Madhur Bhandarkar story with intellectual pretensions.  That Manoj Tyagi, the co-writer of Inkaar, is a Bhandarkar collaborator explains a lot.


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