Celebrates female gaze and female bonding
Film: Saand Ki Aankh
Director: Tushar Hiranandani
Writers: Balwinder Singh Janjua/ screenplay, Jagdeep Siddhu/ dialogues
Cast: Bhumi Pednekar, Tapasee Pannu, Prakash Jha
Ratings: 3.5 stars
Biographies rule Bollywood at the moment and this week’s release Saand Ki Aankh/ Bulls Eye is based on the lives of sharpshooters Chandro and Prakashi Tomar. The film opens into a sleepy village Baghpat on the border of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh where a large family comprising several men, women and children co-exist in a sprawling home.
The morning begins with the women of the house in long veils serving tea and hookahs to the men in the verandah and that’s where they are parked all day while the women toil in the fields. The children leave for school but while the boys have no responsibilities the girls have to assist their mothers in domestic chores before they can pick up their school bags.
The men sleep on cots in the courtyard and the women on thin mattresses in one large room together. When the husband is in a mood the wife is summoned to an isolated room and so that the men don’t get confused about who is behind the veil the women have cleverly worked out colour codes so it is red for the eldest jiji blue for the middle one Chandro/ Bhumi Pednekar and yellow for the youngest Prakashi/ Taapasee Pannu.
They are divided by colors, defined by the number of children they bear the men are oblivious of their dreams or desires. When Prakashi expresses to begin tailoring at home, her sewing machine is flung and broken into pieces only because she erred to stitch trousers for the girl child. The younger girls dream of higher education, government jobs but is anybody listening??
Their daadis are, they enroll their young ones into training for sharpshooting with an expert who they address as ‘doctor’. On the expert’s advice, all four of them undertake training and while the younger ones need practice the daadis we discover are naturals. Encouraged by the tutor the daadis start participating in tournaments all over India. They tell the men they are on a pilgrimage but the women of the house know the truth and are all united in the secret.
Years pass by and one day the pot filled with gold and silver medals are flung out of the trunk and trampled on the floor as fear, outrage, tears, and outburst follow. In a heart-rending scene Chandro Daadi compares their plight to animals that slog all day but never get a penny in hand.
They’ve heard that the Taj Mahal is beautiful but they’ve never seen it, they’ve been told that the ocean makes a lot of sounds but they’ve never visited it, they’ve have seen that the aircraft flies high but never experienced it. There’s something called nail polish that paints the nails but the only color and odor they know is the bricks and the cow dung and the bricks. The scene breaks your heart!
Nearing climax when the men fall from grace the women say to hell with dignity. It is the first time we see the eldest jiji lift her veil to spit venom at her chauvinistic husband, applause-worthy scene.
The downside of the film is the chalky makeup and the inconsistent grey strands. The pace fluctuates and the message gets overemphasized. Sometimes the Khadiboli dialect becomes overbearing and one has to concentrate too hard to comprehend the dialogues but the merits outweigh the demerits. This is a remarkable story about India living in multiple centuries simultaneously detailed insets, location, costume, writing, music, lyrics and convincing performances from Nikhat Khan as the maharani and lead actors Bhumi Pednekar, Tapasee Pannu and Praksh Jha as the antagonist.
Saand ki Aankh is about empowering women and also senior citizens, it celebrates female gaze, female bonding.
After one of their victories, a reporter asks the daadis how old they are. Prakashi takes a while to respond so the reporter jokes that they are as coy about age as other women. The hesitation, clarifies Chandro Tommar was in calculating how many out of these long 60 years did they live for themselves.