Indu Sarkar

wogma rating: Add to that never-watched 'To Watch' list (?)

quick review:

Intertwining stories of Indu Sarkar, the protagonist and Indira's sarkar leave the movie neither here nor there.

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Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Running time: 140 minutes
Genres: History, Politics
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Indu Sarkar - Preview

You might not like his films, but Madhur Bhandarkar hardly ever falls short of giving us an intense drama. Sure, more is at stake here. Because the stones unturned are hurling back at him already. But, I am sure, he must have expected that.

I don't understand politics, but one thing I have understood is that this country's ruling party has never really had a strong opposition. And just from the trailer, I see the “emergency” as a lesson in what happens when the ruling party goes on unchecked for a long time.

Maybe this is a chapter that needs to be in History textbooks. A lesson that the next generation needs. Meanwhile, as far as the movie goes, an ntense drama that will move the insides, is what I am looking forward to.

Indu Sarkar releases on 28 July, 2017

- meeta, a part of the audience

There are a few ways to think of Indu Sarkar. One as a story of a woman who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and that too during one of the most suppressive times of independent India – a coming-of-age movie of sorts. Another could be a historical documentation of the 1975 emergency that uses the story of this woman as a narrative tool. And yet another is a not-so subtle, hint-hint-nudge-nudge comment calling out similarities between people from the “democratic” governments, then and now, who want to control the common man. The problem is that this is not through the viewer's interpretation; the film is actually trying to do all three together.

Better getting excited about a film on the subject and being disappointed than not to have a film on the subject at all.

This is evident from the word go, the pun in the name of the film itself is mildly amusing. The story unfolds in fits and starts. One of the main reasons for that feeling is that the scenes linger way too long to let the drama build or the trauma sink in. But, as is usually so when there is a pause for contemplation, the audience has checked out from the film to check their phones.

Thankfully, dialogue does interrupt the long pauses. But the relief is only brief because the lines are either too filmy, repetitive or are to spoon-feed the audience. For instance, showing an elderly man and a little boy being taken in for sterilization is not enough, their ages are actually called out. Or the comparison of a goddess with the reigning lady prime minister in a poem is actually explained. In that sense, the writers are smart. But they don't want to risk it going unnoticed thus making their effort counter-productive.

As for the repetition, I never understand it when films show the planning of an event and its execution in great detail or when it shows the event and then a character recall the entire thing. Just in case you are wondering, Indu Sarkar is guilty of both.

It is interesting that the timeline in the film was guided through film posters, making the Hindi film industry an important witness to what was going on in the nation. I actually remembered watching films like Upkaar and Namak Haraam as a child that had a similar tone as Indu Sarkar. The importance of the Hindi film world is even exemplified with the common man uniting over a Kishore Kumar song.

As far as the music goes, I liked the rendition of 'chadhta suraj', I liked that the original wasn't tinkered around with much. The background score gets overwhelming at times and stays in the background at others. The sepia tone gives the film the grim look it wants to carry.

That leaves us with the performances. Indu Sarkar, the protagonist, carries the rebellion against the emergency on her shoulders and Kirti Kulhari, the actor does the same for Indu Sarkar, the film. Neil Nitin Mukesh seems menacing. For the first 5 seconds. After that he just seems grumpy and then it all falls apart when he pauses at the wrong places. Tota Roy Chowdhury is the only one who seems to be in complete control of his character.

But, as is usually so when there is a pause for contemplation, the audience has checked out from the film to check their phones.

Despite all its shortcomings, I didn't mind the subject approached. Better getting excited about a film on the subject and being disappointed than not to have a film on the subject at all.

Today, I saw two films that are lesser known chapters in Indian history – one from 40+ years ago and the other from 70+ years ago. Irrespective of the quality of the films and their accuracy, compared to those times and the sacrificers the generations before us made to just survive, we live in superbly liberated times. I wonder what a film 30-40 years later about today's times would look like. Would it feel like they are living in better times than now? I surely hope they don't think our live were like the third film I saw today. shudder

- meeta, a part of the audience

27 reviewers(?) - 5 yays 10 so-so 12 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Bolly Spice : ...But really, who cares! I couldn’t take my eyes of Kriti. Yes she is THAT good. Indu Sarkar is not to be missed for Kirti’s superlative performance. And also because it serves as ravishing reminder of the mistakes from the past that threaten to impinge on the present. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Ankita Chaurasia, Bollywood Hungama : ...Indu Sarkar is an account of, what was touted in the film to be, India’s second freedom struggle. After a steady dose of pre-independence stories, it is indeed refreshing to see the struggles that plagued a recently free India. Madhur Bhandarkar is back to doing what he does best – sketch immensely powerful female characters. If you have a taste for political dramas, Indu Sarkar will surely engage you. But even if you are not a fan of the genre, you must watch it for Kirti’s stupendous performance, if nothing else. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Pallabi Dey Purkayastha, Deccan Chronicle : ...If you are not a hyper-nationalist or an ardent fan of pressure groups, if you cannot tolerate apartheid in the name of politics, regardless of what your political beliefs are, this Madhur Bhandarkar scrapbook straight from the 1970s is for you. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Ahana Bhattacharya, koimoi : ...A nicely narrated story of how common people’s lives were impacted during an emergency. I would recommend watching this one. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Joginder Tuteja, Movie Talkies : ...The film too is meaty especially when it gets into the details of the emergency. Though one does get a feeling that at places Madhur Bhandarkar has held himself a bit from going all the way in terms of exposing the depth of the emergency era, you are still excited enough to see some of the key chapters of the times gone by. ... full review

So-So, by Baradwaj Rangan, Blogical Conclusion, The New Sunday Express : ...Kirti Kulhari is a major reason the film works to the extent it does. Her hushed performance is a tonal counterpoint to the filmmaking – even when the film is loud, she isn’t. She manages something miraculous – she almost transforms an archetype into a character.... full review

So-So, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, INDU SARKAR boasts of a captivating drama with post-interval portions packing a solid punch. At the box office, it’s success will depend on the word of mouth from the audiences. ... full review

So-So, by Vicky Washington, Desi Martini : ...Overall, Indu Sarkar offers a good experience and makes its way into the “worth the money” category. ... full review

So-So, by Rachit Gupta, Filmfare : ...Indu Sarkar is no satire or subliminal piece on the history of Indian politics. It takes too many cinematic liberties, but thankfully its focus on the strong female lead lends it credibility and keeps the jingoism curbed. The performances are certainly its strength. Thankfully its rights outnumber its wrongs, making it an engaging watch for sure. ... full review

So-So, by Josh, : ...Considering it takes digs at the "party", it's very likely you'll enjoy this film if you find yourself on, um, the right side of the fence. But the fact is, Indu Sarkar isn't necessarily playing to the right. The soul of the film stands with anyone who takes their rights seriously. It's for people who, if Kishore Kumar gets banned on All India Radio, will sing Kishore Kumar's songs on the streets. These people could be Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, RSS workers, or even hippies. Whatever be his wrongs, Bhandarkar gets this one right by making it about rights. ... full review

So-So, by Vishal Verma, : ...INDU SARKAR if done by a new comer would have been called as a better attempt but we expected some tight comment from Madhur who gave us CHANDINI BAR, PAGE 3, FASHION and the underrated SATTA. ... full review

So-So, by Uday Bhatia, Live Mint : ...Kulhari’s portrayal of Indu is quite affecting; her character’s journey from shrinking housewife to anti-Emergency activist is schematic but believable. The only other performance of note – I wouldn’t go so far as to call it good – is Neil Nitin Mukesh’s Sanjay Gandhi impression. There are some nice touches from cinematographer Keiko Nakahara – a frenetic dash from a press conference, a walk-and-talk with Indu and resistance leader Nanaji (Anupam Kher).... full review

So-So, by Nandini Ramnath, : ...This film is yet another Madhur Bhandarkar chronicle of corruption in high places.... full review

So-So, by Kennith Rosario, The Hindu : ...If Bhandarkar, were to go by his formula of shocking people through exposés, this film does nothing more than portraying the anti-Emergency wave as a second freedom struggle for India.... full review

So-So, by Nihit Bhave, Times of India : ...However, Indu Sarkar is at its best when it focuses on its protagonist's emotional struggles and dilemmas, leaving the politics behind. Indu and Navin’s story by itself is far more palatable than the elaborate political schemes surrounding them. Kirti Kulhari shoulders the responsibility of the central role with a lot of earnestness and keeps you interested. Tota Roy Chowdhury makes for a good foil to Indu. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Yatharth Chauhan, Desi Martini : ...A subject like emergency shouldn’t get wasted with such a shallow portrayal of the chapter. Let’s hope someone else makes a better film out of it. This one went nowhere! ... full review

Thumbs down, by Rahul Bharadwaj, Desi Martini : ...A movie which could have probably become a worth watch movie has ended up being average probably because of the screenplay writer’s laziness post interval. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Anna MM Vertticad, FirstPost : ...However, better does not mean good. While Indu Sarkar’s narrative is more engaging than Bhandarkar’s recent works, it is still inadequate. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Johnson Thomas, Free Press Journal : ...Kriti as the protagonist Indu and Tota Roy Chowdhury as her unscrupulous husband Navin Sarkar, strive hard to valiantly soldier most of the responsibility of keeping the stuttering, artless narrative above water but even they can’t save this sinking boat from the murky and sinister depths of obligatory rabble-rousing. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Ananya Bhattacharyal, india today : ...Two words: Skip this. And if at all you muster up the courage to watch Indu Sarkar, keep a mug of VERY strong coffee handy. You might doze off several times while the Emergency plays out in front of you.... full review

Thumbs down, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...What about Indu Sarkar? Oh forgot. She's a woman with a speech defect, and a terrible jallad of a mansplainer husband, who wouldn’t let her give shelter to orphans at home. The husband is also a low-level bureaucrat benefitting most from Emergency. Indu Sarkar simultaneously decides to conquer the stammer, the husband, and the state. No kidding. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...That Bhandarkar excels in the single-minded 'reality bites' genre of cinema but has failed to impress ... full review

Thumbs down, by Raja Sen, NDTV : ...ndu Sarkar demonstrates that it doesn't matter who is in charge if the thinking is oppressive. It serves also as potent warning to those in power now and in the future, threatening their legacies.... full review

Thumbs down, by Manisha Lakhe, Now : ...Just creating a documentary of the evil that was emergency would have been a thousand times more powerful than this disappointing drama... full review

Thumbs down, by Sreehari Nair, Rediff : ...I found that disclaimer to be less of a mandatory insert and more an apology for the film's artlessness.... full review

Thumbs down, Sify Movies : ...The other actors who have their moments of onscreen glory are: Sheeba Chaddha who plays Mekhla, a distraught mother who gets into social service and later the Himmat India Sangathan, and the actors who play the politician Om Nath and police officers Misha and Sodhi. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Raghav Jaitly, Zee News : ...With a few ineffective scenes and nothing meaningful to offer, Anupam Kher as the political fighter Nanaji is wasted. The other actors who have their moments of onscreen glory are: Sheeba Chaddha who plays Mekhla, a distraught mother who gets into social service and later the Himmat India Sangathan, and the actors who play the politician Om Nath and police officers Misha and Sodhi. ... full review

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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Police beating people up to evacuate land, police torture
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: Frequent talk about sterilization.
  • Concept: A story of a rebel during Emergency of 1975
  • General Look and Feel: A grim, sepia state of affairs.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:

Indu Sarkar - Cast, crew, links

Official Sites:
Action Choreography:
Music Director:
Running time:
140 minutes

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