Shlok Sharma
Writer & Director

Movie Review
Haraamkhor:A carnival of flawed personalities

HARAAMKHOR: A carnival of flawed personalities

Mark Twain once said – “If you do not read the newspapers, you are not informed. If you read the newspapers, you are misinformed.” Where, then, lies the truth is a question of paramount importance?

Of late, there has been a surge in cases of teachers exploiting their students sexually. While we may be repelled by such news and resort to shaming the accused and lament the moral degradation in our society, debutant director Shlok Sharma, however, puts on his investigative glasses and finds out the circumstances leading up to this moment of shame. The result – a sincere, sensitive and unbiased portrayal of a deeply tragic tale laced with dark humour. That is Haraamkhor in a nutshell.

Set in a small town in Madhya Pradesh, Haraamkhor tells the story of a 15-year-old girl Sandhya (played commendably by the 32-year-old Shweta TripathI of Masaan fame) having an illicit affair with her married teacher Shyam (played by the impeccable Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Their relationship is consensual and clandestine but minutely observed by two adorable prepubescent boys – the naïve Kamal (played by Irfan Khan) and the insanely crazy Mintu (played by Mohd Samad).

Kamal loves Sandhya and wants to marry her but with Shyam in the way, he takes the help of Mintu to drive him out of the competition. Mintu offers bizarre ways and Kamal’s naivety to adopt them is hilarious and makes this forbidden tale of Sandhya and Shyam palatable.

How did their relationship begin? We do not know. Perhaps, it was the lack of affection from her emotionally distant father that led Sandhya to seek affection in Shyam? But why him? That’s the question our lovelorn Kamal even asks Mintu. He is downright shoddy, insensitive and selfish. So why him? Maybe because Sandhya saw in him that one quality which others didn’t - his ability to provide affection. And to her, that’s all that mattered.

Being the writer of the film as well, Shlok Sharma ensures his characters are complex and do not give the audience an opportunity to label them right or wrong. They are what they are, driven by their impulses and are not apologetic about it. This is a triumph for any writer.

It is also the choice of such characters that lends a degree of organicity to the screenplay. There are no formulaic plot points to shock or amaze you but there is one pre-climax sequence that seems to have been force fed to achieve a deeply disturbing climax. Perhaps, if the writer had allowed his characters to take their natural course of action, we would not have had a dramatically satisfying resolution, but it would have definitely left a lot to our imagination, which, in fact, isn’t a bad idea at all. However, by deciding their destinies, the climax seems a little out of place and leaves you more dissatisfied than shocked.

What could have actually shocked the audience is, however, diluted by the warning messages that pop up every time there is a sexual contact between Sandhya and Shyam. You can see their lust overpowering them and do the scandalous, but its impact doesn’t hit you hard because these messages distract you and leave you fuming. Is it a directive of our beloved Censor Board or has it been placed out of genuine safety concerns for minors by the filmmakers? Either way, the film loses important brownie points.

But these lacunae are overcome with the stellar performances of its characters. It wouldn’t be flattering to say that Haraamkhor is truly a carnival of its amazingly flawed characters. Right from Shyam to Mintu, each one of them crackles with an addictive energy.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui proves yet again why he is one of the finest actors in the industry. His role as the Haraamkhor asks us confounding questions on his character. He is at the same time intemperate and loving, irate and caring, unscrupulous and affectionate. How, then, do you label him? Some food for thought, isn’t it?

Shweta Tripathi embodies the spirit of a lonely teenager with tenacity. She is reserved and curious but at the same time willing to learn important life lessons the hard way. She knows what mess she has dug for herself but she is willing to go in there because she finds affection in it. A painful voyage expressed beautifully through her large, scared eyes and her diffident smile, she is the one who goes through a major character arc.

And as for the boys, they deserve more claps than laudatory words. They are naïve, immature and innocent. And yet, it is these attributes that make them terrific. Their buffoonery is top notch and their misplaced bravery both hilarious and tragic. A big bow to them.

Right from the opening image of the film, each character is headed for doom. And they know it. Yet they proceed without any care for consequence. Haraamkhor, in this respect, is an ode to all the wrong decisions that we make in life. But if you want to spare yourself from making another one, go, get a ticket and enjoy a one of its kind experience.

   Chiranjib Sahoo

Chiranjib is a trained screenwriter from Whistling Woods International, Mumbai. He can be contacted at csahoo449@gmail.com.

Click here to Top