There is no disputing the story’s basis in fact, but there is plenty to argue with in its cinematic treatment. Kapri sets the satire in the fictional Tanakpur village of Haryana that is run by the iron fist of the ageing village pradhan (Annu Kapoor). For all his prowess, the pradhan doesn’t know that his young and conveniently comely wife Maya (Hrishita Bhatt) is having an affair with Arjun (Rahul Bagga).
Scrawny and bereft of personality, Arjun hardly fits the part of the homebreaker, but the other the villagers don’t offer too much hope in the looks department, so he is presumably the best candidate in sight.
Enter, our heroine
Arjun is also not the brightest of bulbs to shine in this misbegotten corner of the country, so when he slips away from his sister’s wedding and visits his lover, he is naturally caught in the act. The pradhan and his cohorts Bhima (Ravi Kishen) and a charlatan priest (Sanjay Mishra) dream up the preposterous idea of framing Arjun for the alleged rape of the pradhan’s prized female buffalo, which is fresh from winning a recent bovine fashion show and hence known as Miss Tanakpur. Om Puri’s greasy-palmed police officer is happy to let the farce make its way into the courtroom, and even the judge plays along instead of consigning the case into the rubbish bin.
Kapri deploys rustic and earthy humour, sometimes effective and at other times crude, and extreme realism to make the point that rural India is a cesspool of obscurantism, ignorance, corruption and poor sanitation. The attitude towards bodily functions such as defecation and spitting must have sounded honest and politically incorrect on the page, but they translate into gross humour and unpleasant images. There are far too many scenes of shapeless male characters in poorly tailored underwear, and even the poor buffalo is not spared the insistent camera’s probing angles. The cast collectively deserves a bravery medal for recreating the various indignities of village life. Characters squat in fields, wade into buffalo-filled ponds, and have dung hurled on their faces.
The satire is seems confidently put across at first but then becomes illogical and unwieldy. Kapri is aiming for a tragicomedy about rural India, but some of his visuals are straight out of a horror movie.
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