Aamir Khan’s landmark TV show ‘Satyamev Jayate’ introduced viewers to several real-life heroes that were then unknown. Two of the most memorable guests on this series were the ‘Revolver Daadis’, that is, Chandro and Prakashi Tomar. Tushar Hiranandani, for his directorial debut SAAND KI AANKH, decides to adapt their story onto celluloid. So does SAAND KI AANKH manage to enlighten and also entertain viewers? Or do the makers fail to do justice? Let’s analyse.
SAAND KI AANKH is the story of two women who find their calling in their 60s. The year is 1999. Chandro Tomar (Bhumi Pednekar) and Prakashi Tomar (Taapsee Pannu) are sister-in-laws living under one roof with their respective spouses, strict and orthodox brother-in-law Rattan Singh (Prakash Jha) and their children in Johri village in Uttar Pradesh. Both have crossed 60 years of age and though they had the desire to do something worthwhile in their lives, they were not allowed to because of the pressures of the patriarchal society. One day, Dr Yashpal (Viineet Kumar) returns back to Johri. He leaves his medical profession and starts his shooting range. Chandro’s daughter Shefali (Sara Arjun) expresses interest to practise shooting but Rattan obviously refuses to give permission. Yet, Chandro takes Shefali to the range. Without giving much thought, Chandro also tries her hand and surprisingly, she hits a bullseye! Yashpal tells her to try few more times and he realizes that Chandro is a pro. Later, even Prakashi joins and even she turns out to be an expert shooter! Yashpal encourages them to hone their skills at his shooting range and later, tells them to take part in a shooting competition held in Chandigarh. The daadis have never stepped outside their village in their lives. Hence, they get apprehensive at first but nevertheless, they agree. They fool their husbands and Rattan smartly and head to the competition where Prakashi emerges first and Chandro second. In no time, they win many tournaments with ease, while also cooking up various stories to tell their spouses. However soon there comes a time when the Tomar sisters are compelled to tell the truth to Rattan. What happens next forms the rest of the film.
Balwinder Januja's story is very promising and inspiring. It not just enlightens viewers about the lives of Chandro and Prakashi Tomar but also gives an important comment subtly about the ills of patriarchal society and lack of awareness of population control. Balwinder Januja's screenplay is captivating for most parts but could have been better in the beginning of the flashback portion and in the pre-climax. Jagdeep Sinhu's dialogues are acidic and sharp.
Tushar Hiranandani's direction is quite good for a first-timer and he’s in control of the writing material in hand. He also tries his best to make it as entertaining and mainstream as possible. Also he scores on the emotional front as the struggles of daadis and the way they get slammed by the male members of the family can leave viewers moist-eyed. On the flipside, he should have kept the duration in check. The last 15-20 minutes could have been better emotionally as the scene preceding the finale is too good.
SAAND KI AANKH begins on an interesting note and Chandro and Prakashi’s entry puts a smile on one’s face. The flashback portion works in parts. In fact, the entire first half though engaging doesn’t really go on a high. There’s not enough drama or tension in this hour as the daadis are able to easily practise and even go to Chandigarh without the men getting suspicious. The best part of the first half is the Chandigarh competition and how both the women silence their detractors. Post-interval too, the tension doesn’t arise till a certain point. Yet, the second half is better as there are some very sweet moments. One of the most touching scenes here is when Chandro and Prakashi mistake the finger bowl for hot lime water and gulp it down the throats. The Maharani (Nikhat Khan) doesn’t want the daadis to be humiliated for their gesture and hence, even she does the same! Even the jugaadu disco light installed by the daadis in their house in ‘Baby Gold’ song is sweet. The confrontation sequence between the daadis and Rattan Singh is exhilarating. One expects the film to end here but it goes on for another 20 minutes as the film also focuses on the track of Shefali and Seema trying to be shooters. This track also has its moments but after the high-voltage confrontation scene, the film falls flatly in this said scene. The film ends on an emotional note.
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SAAND KI AANKH belongs to Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar undoubtedly. It’s important to note that they don’t really look that old but both compensate for it through their performances. Taapsee is at ease and the way she breaks into a sheepish smile when her plan of fooling the men succeeds is damn good. She gives her best however in the last portion of the film. Bhumi too gives in her best and her body language is spot-on. Also her attempts to pick up English will elicit laughs in theatres. In a few scenes though, she gets overpowered by Taapsee. Viineet Kumar is endearing and would be loved in the role of the person who serves as catalyst in the journey of the ‘Revolver Daadis’. From his dialogue delivery to his expressions, he gets his act just right. Prakash Jha is very convincing in what can be called a negative role and one can’t help but hate him from start to finish! Shaad Randhawa makes his presence felt in the second half of the film. Nikhat Khan is lovely as the Maharani and she is a part of some of the most important scenes of the film. Sara Arjun has a great screen presence and does well. Yogendra Singh (young Rattan Singh) is apt. S K Batra (I G Jaidev), Pawan Chopra (Jai Singh Tomar), Kuldeep Sareen (Bhanwar Singh Tomar), Pritha Bakshi (Seema) and Himanshu Sharma (Sachin) also put their best foot forward.
Vishal Mishra's music is situational and works well, but only as a part of this film. 'Udta Teetar' is exhilarating. 'Womaniya' appears in the end and is memorable as the real Chandro and Prakashi Tomar also feature in the track. 'Aasmaa' is touching and sung well by Asha Bhosle. 'Baby Gold' and 'Jhunna Jhunna' have catchy tunes and shot appropriately. Advait Nemlekar's background score has the commercial feel.
Suddhakar Reddy Yakanti's cinematography is spectacular, especially in the shooting scenes. The camera moves in such a way that it adds to the drama. Also watch out for a scene where all the important movements of characters are captured in that rear-view mirror of a motorbike. Ravi Srivastava's production design is authentic. The fact that it was shot in the village of the Tomar sisters also adds to the authenticity. Rohit Chaturvedi's costumes are straight out of life. Sunil Rodrigues's action gels well with the film. Rajeev K Rastogi's VFX is rich. Devendra Murdeshwar's editing is neat but could have been tighter in the second half.
On the whole, SAAND KI AANKH rests on an inspiring story and bravura performances by Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar. At the box office, however, it will need a strong word of mouth to survive competition in the form of HOUSEFULL 4 and MADE IN CHINA.