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Film review: ‘Irada’ is a well-intended expose of pollution and graft

A superb cast and some smart writing paper over the flaws in Aparnaa Singh’s debut movie.

Debutant director Aparnaa Singh’s Irada deftly mixes fiction and fantasy. The plot is said to have been drawn from real events – the pollution of ground water by a chemical manufacturer with the blessings of a state’s ruling party. The fictional response to these events, however, hews closer to Hollywood films about righteous citizens turning detectives and vigilantes against powerful corporations, among them Erin Brockovich, A Class Action and Edge of Darkness.

Set in Punjab, Irada advocates solutions that ordinary viewers will be hard-pressed to replicate, but its concerns are timely, its character sketches memorable, and its empathy unmistakable.

Topping the sparkling cast is Naseeruddin Shah in one of his most relaxed recent performances. Shah plays Parabjeet, a decorated retired soldier who wants his daughter to become a fighter pilot. Parabjeet puts Riya (Rumana Molla) through a punishing schedule of morning runs and long swims, but tragedy strikes in the form of a cancer diagnosis. The water that Riya has been gulping day after day is killing her, and her repentant father sets out to investigate.

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Irada.

Parabjeet eventually runs into Arjun (Arshad Warsi), a National Investigation Agency officer who has arrived in town to investigate a massive blast that has destroyed the polluting chemical factory run by the malevolent Paddy (Sharad Kelkar). Paddy and the state’s chief minister Ramandeep (Divya Dutta) are twinned by rapacity. One flushes out his factory’s toxins into the ground water, while the other ignores the problem in return for political funds. An activist who tried to blow the whistle has been killed, and his girlfriend Maya (Sagarika Ghatge) is getting nowhere with her campaign to expose Paddy.

The blast at Paddy’s plant holds out the promise of a promotion and a possible stint at the Prime Minister’s Office for Arjun. All he has to do is follow Ramandeep’s tart orders – file a report that exonerates Paddy and hang the blame on an employee who has killed himself. Arjun’s curiosity eventually leads him to Parabjeet, and a friendship develops between the two men.

Singh’s fondness for her characters cuts both ways. Irada is an old-fashioned conspiracy thriller in which the righteous are justified in their actions, however unlawful they may be, and the evildoers are just the right shade of black. Sharad Kelkar is perfectly cast as the dapper businessman whose empire is built on corpses, while Divya Dutta is a doozy as the imperious head of state whose wickedness is more far-reaching than Paddy’s corruption.

Warsi turns out a charming and relaxed performance even when Arjun is up to no good. As the 109-minute narrative wears on and the need to add contrivances to reach for an uplifting solution to depressingly real-world problems kicks in, Arjun’s moral compass starts behaving like Jack Sparrow’s apparatus from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies – it points most to what he wants, rather than what the law permits.

Like Arjun, Singh and co-writer Anushka Rajan dredge up problems that cannot be tackled through official channels. Yet, the director’s conviction bulldozes through the most indulgent and ragged moments. A flashback to a holiday taken by Parabjeet and Riya is little more than an excuse to showcase Rumana Molla’s histrionic talents. Parabjeet’s questionable actions, and the movie’s endorsement of them, also indicate that Singh’s resolve to tackle the economic roots of pollution and its relationship with cancer is weakening. Even though the resolution beggars belief, the high-powered cast and the director’s clear-eyed rage against the machine are convincing enough.

Sagarika Ghatge and Arshad Warsi in Irada.
Sagarika Ghatge and Arshad Warsi in Irada.
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Modern home design trends that are radically changing living spaces in India

From structure to finishes, modern homes embody lifestyle.

Homes in India are evolving to become works of art as home owners look to express their taste and lifestyle through design. It’s no surprise that global home design platform Houzz saw over a million visitors every month from India, even before their services were locally available. Architects and homeowners are spending enormous time and effort over structural elements as well as interior features, to create beautiful and comfortable living spaces.

Here’s a look at the top trends that are altering and enhancing home spaces in India.

Cantilevers. A cantilever is a rigid structural element like a beam or slab that protrudes horizontally out of the main structure of a building. The cantilevered structure almost seems to float on air. While small balconies of such type have existed for eons, construction technology has now enabled large cantilevers, that can even become large rooms. A cantilever allows for glass facades on multiple sides, bringing in more sunlight and garden views. It works wonderfully to enhance spectacular views especially in hill or seaside homes. The space below the cantilever can be transformed to a semi-covered garden, porch or a sit-out deck. Cantilevers also help conserve ground space, for lawns or backyards, while enabling more built-up area. Cantilevers need to be designed and constructed carefully else the structure could be unstable and lead to floor vibrations.

Butterfly roofs. Roofs don’t need to be flat - in fact roof design can completely alter the size and feel of the space inside. A butterfly roof is a dramatic roof arrangement shaped, as the name suggests, like a butterfly. It is an inverted version of the typical sloping roof - two roof surfaces slope downwards from opposing edges to join around the middle in the shape of a mild V. This creates more height inside the house and allows for high windows which let in more light. On the inside, the sloping ceiling can be covered in wood, aluminium or metal to make it look stylish. The butterfly roof is less common and is sure to add uniqueness to your home. Leading Indian architecture firms, Sameep Padora’s sP+a and Khosla Associates, have used this style to craft some stunning homes and commercial projects. The Butterfly roof was first used by Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect who later designed the city of Chandigarh, in his design of the Maison Errazuriz, a vacation house in Chile in 1930.

Butterfly roof and cantilever (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
Butterfly roof and cantilever (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)

Skylights. Designing a home to allow natural light in is always preferred. However, spaces, surrounding environment and privacy issues don’t always allow for large enough windows. Skylights are essentially windows in the roof, though they can take a variety of forms. A well-positioned skylight can fill a room with natural light and make a huge difference to small rooms as well as large living areas. However, skylights must be intelligently designed to suit the climate and the room. Skylights facing north, if on a sloping roof, will bring in soft light, while a skylight on a flat roof will bring in sharp glare in the afternoons. In the Indian climate, a skylight will definitely reduce the need for artificial lighting but could also increase the need for air-conditioning during the warm months. Apart from this cleaning a skylight requires some effort. Nevertheless, a skylight is a very stylish addition to a home, and one that has huge practical value.

Staircases. Staircases are no longer just functional. In modern houses, staircases are being designed as aesthetic elements in themselves, sometimes even taking the centre-stage. While the form and material depend significantly on practical considerations, there are several trendy options. Floating staircases are hugely popular in modern, minimalist homes and add lightness to a normally heavy structure. Materials like glass, wood, metal and even coloured acrylic are being used in staircases. Additionally, spaces under staircases are being creatively used for storage or home accents.

Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)

Exposed Brick Walls. Brickwork is traditionally covered with plaster and painted. However, ‘exposed’ bricks, that is un-plastered masonry, is becoming popular in homes, restaurants and cafes. It adds a rustic and earthy feel. Exposed brick surfaces can be used in home interiors, on select walls or throughout, as well as exteriors. Exposed bricks need to be treated to be moisture proof. They are also prone to gathering dust and mould, making regular cleaning a must.

Cement work. Don’t underestimate cement and concrete when it comes to design potential. Exposed concrete interiors, like exposed brick, are becoming very popular. The design philosophy is ‘Less is more’ - the structure is simplistic and pops of colour are added through furniture and soft furnishings.

Exposed concrete wall (Image Credit: Getty Images)
Exposed concrete wall (Image Credit: Getty Images)

When building your home, it is important to use strong and durable materials. A value-added premium product with high compressive strength, Birla Gold cement is used to make tough, impermeable concrete that sets quickly, lasts long and minimises cracking. Its durability will ensure that your dream home always looks new and the steel structure inside remains protected. Birla Gold offers variants that are optimised for different needs. The unique hydraulic binding properties of the Birla Gold Premium cement variant prevent seepage, making it resistant to even corrosive water, especially important for houses in coastal cities. The Birla Gold Royal cement variant provides very high strength and is perfect for the foundation. As the video below says, with the different varieties of cement that Birla Gold offers, you can build the home of your dreams.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Birla Gold Premium Cement and not by the Scroll editorial team.