Disclaimer: The post contains spoilers from the film Saand Ki Aankh.
Bollywood has always had a hit-and-miss run with biopics. With the latest biographical drama Saand Ki Aankh, based on the life of the world's oldest sharpshooters Chandro and Prakashi Tomar, it's sadly, another miss!
Starring Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar in the lead roles, and directed by Tushar Hiranandani, the film traces Chandro and Prakashi Tomar's journey from accidentally discovering they're amazing sharpshooters--when they were over 60 years old--to establishing themselves as ace shooters across the nation.
Right from the time the poster was released, Bhumi and Taapsee failed to appear convincing as the sexagenarian sharpshooters. The trailer did little to dispel the notion that the film may suffer from miscasting. The film cements the thought - this was a movie that deserved, and would have benefitted from, veteran actors and seasoned performers.
It's not that Taapsee and Bhumi have not delivered commendable performances in the past. Though Taapsee definitely takes the edge with her spirited performance as Prakashi Tomar.
But the way the character's look has been developed is disappointing to the point that it actually distracts you from the actor's performance.
And this is even more pronounced in Bhumi's case, perhaps because her monologues and emotional scenes feel exaggerated and dramatized, instead of authentic.
The film's supporting cast, led by Vineet Kumar Singh (of Mukkabaaz fame) and Prakash Jha, is a delight. But ultimately, the film is not helmed on their shoulders because the story is not about them.
The story is about two women who defied all odds to become champions in a sport widely considered as a man's playing field. Or, like the dialogue in the film goes, 'bandook aadmion ka gehna hai'.
What the film gets right is the representation of the deep-rooted patriarchy that exists in many Indian rural households (and frankly, in modern households too) and the restricted access to options women are afforded.
It also ably presents the sheer strength that women derive from each other, especially when struck together in hapless circumstances. In fact, even when the film's central theme is not female friendship, the depiction of sisterhood is heartwarming.
But, the film does a great disservice to its central subjects. There are hardly two scenes in the film that showcase a younger Chandro and Prakashi Tomar. Which makes the decision to cast young actors to play older characters even more absurd.
When a younger actor plays an older character, it's imperative that they appear convincing - because the audience's imagination will easily place other actors in their mind. Like it happened with me.
With every impassioned speech, surprising discovery or clever ruse the lead characters pulled off, I couldn't help but imagine how would an actor like Surekha Sikri, Neena Gupta, or Seema Pahwa pull off the same scene.
Another issue with the way the film has been written and directed is the over dramatization of 'important' scenes. We have moved away from the cinema of our childhood - where every revelation was accompanied by a thundering background score, or every emotionally rousing scene was supported with mellow music.
What such theatrics do is take the audience's focus away from the actual story. And when the story is as inspiring and frankly, even dramatic, in its own right, there is no need for such elements.
Even the poetic license the movie undertakes with the story - whether it's to show the lead characters' obvious gaffes at a 'royal dinner', or the secrets they use to be able to go on competitions- is not as unsettling as the exaggerated scenarios.
The dramatization takes away from emotionally rousing scenes, such as when they convince the family to send their daughter and niece for the National camp.
As an industry, the Hindi film industry has carved limited roles for older female actors. In a story and film that appeared tailor-made for senior actors, the moviemakers once again decided to cast younger stars. And the travesty is not just the miscasting, but the fact that these young actors were not convincing as the older characters.
All images are screenshots from the trailer on YouTube, unless specified otherwise.