“Bhakshak A Big Prod To The Conscience” – A Subhash K Jha Review

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Bhakshak (Netflix)

Starring Bhumi Pednekar, Sanjay Mishra, Aditya Srivastava, Sai Tamhankar

Directed by Pulkit

From its prologue where a young girl is brutalized and then left to die, to its closing monologue where investigative journalist Vaishali Singh looks straight into the camera and asks us if we have lost all compassion… Bhakshak resonates with the corruption and brutality of our times.

Bhakshak is set in a hell-house camouflaged as a shelter home in Munnawarnagar, a thinly veiled reference to the shocking gruesome crime in Muzaffarpur that had shaken the nation’s collective conscience in 2018. But what did we do? Did we go beyond out tsk-tsks in our living rooms?

Pulkit’s film does much more than make polite noises. It is a film of smothered shrieks and chilling recriminations. It is partly a true-crime thriller that Costa-Gavras would approve of, and partly a severe docu-dramatized condemnation of our socio-political reality that allows such unspeakable crimes to happen, right in the heartland of India.

To his credit, Pulkit (a prized discovery among the most skilled storytellers of our cinema) never allows the tone of the film to get excessively righteous. The mood is one of regret and anger, yes. But there is no blame game, no attempt to pass the buck. Pulkit sees what most of us have ceased to long ago: we built this sordid world where children are abused, and those exposing such heinous crimes are told to shut up or die.

There is this brilliantly written confrontation sequence between Vaishali Singh and the crime kingpin Bansi Sahu (Aditya Shrivastava, sterling in his evil avatar) where Sahu politely asks the intrepid journalist why she wants to commit suicide. It reminded me of Om Puri and Sadashiv Amrapurkar in Govind Nihalani’s Ardh Satya.

The aura of eeriness envelopes almost every frame. Inside the shelter home we hear muffled sounds of torture and pain like distant roars of trains filled with Jews hurling towards doom in Nazi Germany. Shishir Chousalkar’s sound design favours no particular design. Random ominous sounds startle us, provided we are listening.

Besides being an outright instant classic on oppression and child abuse, Bhakshak is also a technically-unerring winner. The cinematography (Kumar Saurabh), the editing (Zubik Sheikh) and the production design (Prashant Bidkar) embrace the squalor and turpitude with an exceptional absence of judgement.

The performances lift this fable of a fall to the lowest level of depravity, to a degree of deliverance . Not only Bhumi Pednekar , but also Sanjay Mishra as her kind considerate assistant and Surya Sharma as her closeted-feminist husband, bring a rare gravitas to the nerve wracking proceedings.

Our Rating

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