Director Vinod Kapri received threatening calls from some Hindu factions regarding his directorial debut Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho. Clearly, these overzealous critics had not watched the film. This self-proclaimed and self-publicized political satire is a self-deceptive attempt at self-effacement and totally undeserving of such serious allegations.
Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho is a story of an extra-marital affair gone sour. Maya (Hrishita Bhatt), the wife of Tanakpur Pradhan’s Suvalal (Annu Kapoor) seeks love and solace from her ageing husband in the arms of the young and caring Arjun (Rahul Bagga). On revelation, Suvalal wrongly accuses Arjun of raping his buffalo Miss Tanakpur. His ridiculous revenge plot receives due support from Inspector Matan Singh (Om Puri), the brutish simpleton Bhima (Ravi Kishan) and Hindu priest Shastri (Sanjay Mishra).
One could extend complete appreciation for the director’s journalistic objectives of addressing social evils like religious orthodoxy and subversion of the justice system. However, Kapri forgot one minute detail- that the medium is as important as the message. Very ironic for a member of the fourth estate! Both Indian films and Indian audience are more than familiar with the corrupt village sarpanch, the bribe-taking police inspector, the conning temple priest and the silently suffering wife. Agreed it is not a badge you flash proudly as an Indian but neither do you waste precious Indian wealth in making a film to state the obvious.
Ironically, few of the news video coverage of these actual incidents are more stimulating than Kapri’s dramatized version. If the ideals of a Munnabahi or a PK have entered people’s vocabulary, it is because these are films that fulfill their primary function- to entertain and engage. Unfortunately, Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho does neither. The opening mela sequence of the film, to be honest, looks promising with authentic ambient sounds, documentary-like shots and refreshing portrayal of rustic realities. Even the spin on the iconic Basanti character and context is intriguing and so is the public urination scene against population control slogans. Unfortunately, the filmmaker’s commitment to thought and creativity ends there.
Another dose of disappointment is the gross waste of National School of Drama veteran actors like Kapoor and Puri. Even popular talent like Kishan and Mishra are laid prostrating before an uncouth screenplay and lacking dialogues. The feisty character of Arjun’s Bua lent genuine humor but even her impact fizzles out soon. More than sympathizing for the victimized Arjun, the audience’s heart goes out to Dagga and Bhatt for giving such sincere performances in a non-committal directorial frame. Also, the pristine representation of purely good and evil characters is passé and definitely not befitting of an amateur project that dares to christen itself as a political satire.
Towards the end of the scene, Miss Tanakpur is shown running away from the furore and the fury…the exact sentiment the audience had held for the past two hours.