The title of the film flashes three naked women with disappearing underwear and the film opens with a metaphor comparing sex with excreta. But this sleazy irreverence is a mere sheen veiling solid substance. Harshavardhana Kulkarni’s Hunterr is a tale of love and lust that extends into a narrative of loss and life, of trysts and trust. The protagonist Mandar Pondshe (Gulshan Devaiah) as the quintessential human hunter of women is established in the opening scene itself. Yet, what the audience sees is not a sassy and suave Casanova but the next door guy, unassuming and annoying. This is also the beginning of breaking stereotypes and conventions. Even the seasoned audience, familiar with a non-linear narrative structure and flashbacks, is surprised with the backward dragging shots to literally create the sense of motion into the past. What is astonishing is despite the insistent shuttling between “6 months earlier”, “1995” and “Present Day”, the film does not feel fragmented. The three paneled frame capturing the three women characters hitherto in Mandar’s life that appears when the intermission is announced, shows the intention of the filmmaker to maintain clarity in meaning.
The story of sex and cool debaucheries soon emerges as a coming-of-age tale traced from adolescence to adulthood. Here too the filmmaker has imagined an extremely authentic setting of the communal well, village mud houses and small town blue film video parlors. It is within these raw, non-glamorous sites that he locates the male body and its growing sexuality. Yet, it is not the school crushes where he begins his story. It is within the domesticated confines of the house and between the dynamics of social interaction amongst relatives of opposite gender. The scene where the old aunt is making rotis, the young niece Surekha is serving them and the three boys Mandar, Kshitij and Yusuf deliberating marriage with her is a case in point. The three boys stripped to their bare bodies, taking a bath and teasing each other about marrying their niece Surekha shows how sexual fantasies can begin at home.
A potently vibrant imagination is at work as far as the development of characters is concerned. Hunterrr is also an inclusive script that is serious about ensuring that each character of the film stays on the minds of the viewer. They are created literally and metaphorically out of quirks. This makes them unique and exciting at once. The non-deferential Kshitij urinating in public spaces only, the meowing Mrs. Savita Sahay playing the Indian cougar, Jyotsna with her low back blouses as sign of her sexual needs, the stammering Deepak indicative of his inadequacy, Mandar’s mother with her malapropisms, Anju with her calm suffering and Mandar’s friend with his penchant for his version of shirt-ripping dance are a few traits that are difficult to forget. Each idiosyncrasy transcends humor and cultivates an emotional moment for the audience to feel for the characters. Jyotsna’s sweet dismissal of her extra-marital affair with a single line, “Tu toh bhaag gaya, main kahan jaaoongi?” (You ran away, where will I go?) succinctly captures the trapped situation of the married woman. The angry threats spouted by Kshitij in his mother tongue at the father who sexually abused his children brings in a grey shade to ‘Vasu’-like characters that are perceived to be on the wrong side of morality.
What supports this celluloid rendition of human desires and emotions is the commendable soundtrack with its wide variety and originally thought-out metaphors and lyrics. The intermingling of hunger with sexual appetite in “Thaali Khaali Hain” and the metaphors of milk and ghee to speak of liberated romance in the slow love song, “Chori Chori” speaks of a leap to another creative plane. The retro style title track “Hunterrr 303” put to tune by Bappi Lahiri is a fun homage to the disco era that lends a humorous and youthful twist to the age old game of love chase.
Humor is another ingredient that pervades the film. Even with the ending scene where dramatic tension is built around Mandar’s confession and Trupti’s (Radhika Apte) decision, the narrative is punctuated with alternate possibilities of the outcome as happened in Mandar’s imagination. The scene ends with Chax asking Trupti for an antacid and Mandar for a Disprin. The ordinary and the banal never allow the narrative to be over the top or larger than life. It is due to this that the audience walks out of the theater not only engaged but thoroughly convinced with them. They are both real and relatable.
Filled with innuendo, the film and the songs make some true statements about intimacy. Hunterrr truly captures Kama Ka Real Ras.