Anyone who knows me knows that ‘The Office‘ is one of my favorite shows. The chemistry between the actors, the correctness of the jokes, the quick wit – everything is so well-timed. One such example of quick-wittedness is when Andy Bernard tells Dwight that ‘the Director’ is the highest title on a film set. Anyone who wants to challenge Andy’s claim should take a detour to Bollywood to watch Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar. They would see rich performances from both its lead actors Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra, especially when both these actors didn’t live up to expectations in their respective last films (The Girl on the Train for Parineeti Chopra and Sardar Ka Grandson for Arjun Kapoor). Why such a stark difference in the performances? One person – the director.
Dibakar Banerjee‘s latest directorial venture ‘Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar‘ is a dark comedy on Amazon Prime that follows the life of Sandeep Walia, a.k.a Sandy (Parineeti Chopra), a successful banker, and Satyendra Dahiya a.k.a Pinky (Arjun Kapoor), a hot-headed Haryana cop. Pinky is acting as a henchman on the orders of his superior to take Sandy to a pre-decided location where she’d be killed. Only after they realize (by accident) that it was a setup to kill both of them, they abscond together, and what follows forms the central plot of this film. The film also benefits from a solid supporting cast, including Neena Gupta, Raghubir Yadav, Jaideep Ahlawat, and Rahul Kumar.
It’s only fair that I begin the film’s analysis by crediting Dibakar Banerjee for co-writing, producing, and directing a fresh film that creates intrigue from the first scene itself. Banerjee is known for weaving films in the backdrop of existing socio-economic conditions. As a result, we see characters from two contrasting situations. Sandy is from an affluent class who carries a bag worth Rs 2 Lakh, whereas Pinky is from Haryana, for whom, class has no meaning. However, suppose you didn’t know the actors and just noticed the character names objectively. You notice that an affluent character has a patriarchal name (Sandy), and the character who just follows orders has a matriarchal name (Pinky). We see many such subtexts of the existing societal norms throughout the film. We notice that a female’s character is expected to serve everyone at the dinner table, we observe the shock on a man’s face after a woman gives them financial advice, and how a man is credited for an intelligent decision even though he has nothing to do with it. One such memorable subtext is when Neena Gupta‘s character jokingly explains that when she was upset with her husband (Raghubir Yadav) and wanted some space, she realized that she had nowhere to go. So she returned home, symbolizing the helplessness of females in remote parts of India and their heavy dependence on the house’s patriarch. I can go on about many such intelligent subtexts that we see in the film, but you get my gist.
After reviewing Sardar Ka Grandson earlier this week, I was pleasantly surprised at the mature acting of Arjun Kapoor. Be it his delivery, mannerisms, or even how he dances, Kapoor epitomizes the ignorant Haryanvi cop flawlessly. At no point do you notice Kapoor dropping character, and it’s just marvelous! Speaking of marvel, I have always touted Parineeti Chopra as the next big thing. I am so glad she has delivered such a strong performance. Chopra has a calming, yet commanding presence in all her scenes. Unlike her loud and over-the-top performance in The Girl on the Train, she uses restraint and subtlety to express her anguishes – be it while facing a threat or hiding her disgust in using the public toilet.
Regarding Neena Gupta‘s performance, I will go back to my original claim that she belongs in the same league as the legendary Indian actresses of yesteryear, such as Shabana Azmi, Smita, Patil, and others. She portrays a soft-spoken gullible Indian woman whose world starts and ends with doing family chores. She is accompanied by my favorite actor Raghubir Yadav, who plays Gupta‘s husband. Yadav‘s mannerism reminds us of an Indian matriarch who thinks he knows it all regardless of whether he actually does or not. His flaunting of broken English to demonstrate his importance is so apt that it reminds us of many such Indian uncles we know. Without making this review too long, I want to send a shout out to Jaideep Ahlawat and Rahul Kumar. We have already seen Ahlawat‘s capability as an actor in Paatal Lok. It seems he has brought the same finesse to this character. Lastly, graduating from a minor role of ‘silencer,’ from Three Idiots, we see Rahul Kumar giving a lovely supporting hand to the entire film with his skillful acting and comedic timing.
The production of Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar began in 2017 and it was originally planned for release in 2020. Sadly, the lockdown followed by the second wave this year, forced Yash Raj Films to cut short the theatrical release and marketing budget. As a result, the film was released on Amazon Prime in record time.
Although not meant for everyone, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is a well crafted film that definitely deserves more credit than it’s existing IMDb rating (6.2) and it’s all thanks to the one man who enjoys the highest title on the film-set – it’s director.
Reviewed by Puneet Ruparel