With a tantalizing tagline ‘Office politics gets hotter’, Inkaar is a sensitive film that deals with ‘office sexual harrasment’ in a more complex manner than it did in Aitraaz (though, let me hasten to add, that film was very enjoyable in its own way).
First the caveat – this is not your usual drab office. The setting is an advertisement agency, hence there is a huge quotient of glamour, casualness & freedom. Most of us would rush through Mumbai’s cruel traffic to mark our e-attendance on time, or sulk over sales numbers doing a Manmohan Singh like deafening silence, here the characters have it rather easy where it comes to the core work. Ideas flow naturally – they even change an entire campaign overnight in a hotel room, clients get bagged with just a few witty lines & the National Creative Director doesn’t seem to be to worried about her staff supposedly pan-India delivering on time. In that, sadly, Sudhir Mishra has alienated a large section of his urban audience, which in any case were his audience! I doubt the film will even see through its opening week in single screens or small sections.
Now for the good parts.
The story revolves around two ambitious professionals – Rahul Verma (Arjun Rampal) and Maya Luthra (Chitrangada Singh). The film opens with Maya (National Creative Director) slapping a case of ‘sexual harassment’ on the agency’s CEO Rahul Verma. A committee pf senior officials is formed chaired by an external arbiter Mrs Kamdar ( Deepti Naval in a frustratingly useless cameo).
There begins the intricate tales of their twisted professional lives as each of the two come and present their case. The movie shuttles back & forth pretty seamlessly as layers upon layers get unravelled to their past as to why they have come to this face-off. So is Maya right in her claim, or is she avenging her unrequited love for Rahul, with a side-bonus of eyeing his position (which, we are told, is the natural progression in her career graph). Or, is it the reverse – that, she is eyeing the top-position with a sweet revenge thrown in the side. Or, is it Rahul who is frustrated at his protégé getting too big for her boots and is building up impregnable walls to protect what he feels is his rightful turf?
Questions and questions. And no correct answers. Maya is a refreshing heroine in Hindi cinema. She knows what she wants. She doesn’t forget to thank John ( the advertisement agency’s co-owner) at an award function, knowing fully well who holds the purse-strings. She will leave her supposed fiancé dangling at the airport when she learns that her rival has pre-poned an important meeting (allegedly to spite her). She makes all the right statements to get the arbiter on her side ( Hum auratein hoti hi aise hain). She even leaves some uncomfortable facts out of her narrative ( which Rahul eventually reveals in his statements). But beneath all this, she has a heart, and is as human as one can be. So she gets pangs of jealousy & insecurity when she sees her man greeting a pretty lady at a hotel lobby with an overt familiarity. She also can’t handle that a model has visited his home. And she is by all means a daughter who cares for her mother.
Rahul, on the other hand, is pretty one-tone, but equally with shades that are not any whiter than teeth that his client’s product helps to shine. He has his equal fallings, jealousies, insecurities and attractions which adds to their muddy relationship, though I felt Mishra has been largely kind to his character although at the risk of being a speed-breaker in the story. It’s Maya & her actions which take the story forward ( be it her sudden decision to move to Delhi office after she feels rejected by him, or equally surprising returning back to the head office with a higher position, or the very basis of the film – throwing a sexual harassment case on his face!)
Even Maya’s styling has more details – an impetuous look when she is young ( complete with an alluring piercing right below her lips), and a more corporate staid and straightened hair style when she climbs the corporate ladder. On the other hand, Mishra has been very lazy with Rahul. He looks the same through out the years.
As an audience, we hear two sides of the same story, often the same incident narrated through two different versions.
Ultimately it’s about two strong individuals who have to allow for all the years & the mud to settle down for the truth to reveal itself – that they were so much in love that they hurt each other.
In the end, Maya succintly puts it – ‘can people like us who need something more than just love ever make meaningful relationships?’ – and that is a very potent & real statement, and the film’s essential core… perhaps, also for many of us! Never mind the film’s packaging, but in one sentence Mishra has shown the audience a strikingly truthful mirror (as also rubbishing the dreamy filmi love stories).
The film is well narrated in the sense that it is not boring while it lasts & keeps the audience pretty much hooked …but somewhat at a distance too. It’s not something that blows your mind out. But seeps in quietly. Will I care for or remember Maya or Rahul later on? Probably unlikely. There was some element or some note missing somewhere. I am unable to place my finger on it correctly.
Maybe it could be that of late we are so accustomed to either hard-hitting masala fares or stark realism that a middle-of-the-road cinema unnerves us.
The length is sufficient. The script is well written, neatly weaving in all the relevant points, and also the back-and-forth movement is very organized. The dialogues, though, at places felt a bit artificial. The cinematography uses some very tight close-ups & hand-held scenes lending it a sense of urgency.
The background score is average, and the sound design tad poor. Often the background score drowned a few dialogues (was this unintentional or by design?). The songs (Shantanu Moitra) do not leave any impact. I couldn’t recall a single one as i stepped out of the theatre.
Chitrangada Singh is very good. That she has very soft moist eyes (& uses them effectively) make her hard-as-nails act even more lethal. Arjun Rampal suits the role, and does the CEO’s role perfectly. There is an array of supporting cast who do their jobs adequately. Rehana Sultana (Of Dastak fame) makes a miniscule come-back too as Maya’s mother.
The direction is even & the film’s pace is smooth. Sudhir Mishra doesn’t allow it to get too serious or drab.
In totality – it’s a different fare, very sensibly made, raises a few pertinent questions & I’d say go for it for a change of taste.
Overall – Recommended for viewing!