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Movie Review: Haramkhor

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The film possesses an ethical dimension that informs, but does not judge

CAST: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Shweta Tripathi/  DIRECTOR: Shlok Sharma

Here is a movie that looks like it was made on the run, with not too much time or money for extra takes. The sound is full of unnecessary ambience, the visuals are quickly composed and choppily edited, the art direction non- existent. Yet, amazingly, the performances are uniformly good with Shweta Tripathi and Nawazuddin Siddiqui presenting us with a disturbing relationship between a fifteen year old girl and her school teacher;  a bond developed in a small, neglected, backwater township between a lonely girl experimenting with her budding sexuality, and a sexual predator who sees her vulnerability as his own golden opportunity.

Just like the 'smoking kills' subtitle that comes on when characters smoke in the movies in India, 'Haraamkhor' has a title telling us that sex with a minor is a crime, whenever Shyam (Siddiqui) and Sandhya (Tripathi) are in a clinch. Clearly, big brother does not trust the audience's morality, or for that matter the filmmaker's either. The director has called his film 'haraamkhor', a highly pejorative term that clearly refers to the school teacher, the man is shown to be a scheming little rat, and yet, an extra cinematic authority feels it necessary to guide our sensibilities in the proper direction. Later in the film, when Sandhya thinks she is pregnant and goes to the city to have a test done, it is surprising that we are not appropriately informed by a title saying 'sex causes pregnancy'.

The point is that when a film is textured with a couple of layers of complexity, as this movie is, the narrative is completely ruined by a superimposed title that turns into a plot spoiler.  You are not sure at that moment about the exact nature of the relationship between student and teacher. Till then, you may have guessed the truth, but you are still in the process of working it out. Well, thanks to the title you know.

The daughter of a Police Officer desperately looking for a transfer out of a boondocks posting,  Sandhya has an absent mother and a disturbed childhood. As an adolescent with all the attendant confusion and complexes of her age, she is much more mature than the boys in her class, and finds better companionship with her persuasive teacher.

The entire cast of this movie convinces us with their  'true to life' looks, conversations and personalities. The film possesses an ethical dimension that informs, but does not judge. Where it falls short is in its inability to render a sense of completeness to the watching experience. Brutal as the end is, the maker fails to leave you with a sense of loss; with the pain of a family ruptured or with the wistfulness of how sexual innocence is so easily and prematurely nipped in the bud and turned into something so seedy.

The abrupt conclusion of the movie is disappointing because it does not leave us with any memories of the characters we have lived with in the film, particularly those we have empathised with and want to know more about.