Saturday, August 23, 2014



It happens too often that talented actresses are tempted with films in which they are not secondary to the hero, and then are let down with half-baked scripts; Pradeep Sarkar’s Mardaani is a case in point (after Bobby Jasoos a few weeks ago). The title is presumably inspired by the famous “Khoob ladi mardaani, woh to Jhansi wali Rani thi” poem by Subhadha Kumari Chauhan, giving the lead character in the film a tragic grandeur she doesn’t possess.

Shivani Shivaji Roy (Rani Mukerji) is a crime branch cop, a tough-taking, one-of-the-boys type, but with bangs and braid perfectly in place. She lives with her husband (Jisshu Sengupta) and niece, and has taken a street flower seller under her wing, after rescuing her from her wicked uncle. 

When this girl, Pyaari (Priyanka Sharma) goes missing from the children’s shelter home, Shivani uncovers the tip of a widespread flesh trading ring, that has been out of the police radar because its kingpin is an evil and smart operator. When she steps on to his turf, and won’t be bribed, he hits where it hurts—by publicly humiliating her husband.

He has a running phone conversation with Shivani, in which he talks in a civilised voice, and she like a ‘filmi’ cop with coarse lines. She promises to trace him within 30 days, and instead of throwing insurmountable odds in her way, the script hands it all to her on a platter.

Because Sarkar already takes a risk by making a film without the trappings of commercial cinema, he could have gone the whole hog and made a one that exposed the workings of child trafficking gangs, instead of just picking the voyeuristic, skin-show bits. It also puts cops off the hook, when it is obvious that a crime ring like that cannot run without the complicity of the police.

Rani Mukerji is in terrific form, and even though the film has no depth, she doesn’t let her intensity falter. Why should a film about a woman who does her duty even be called Mardaani? It’s as if being janaani is somehow inferior.


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