In a country where you need to bribe and know important people to get a hospital bed, the joke is on you if you expect to get justice in a timely manner. It’s no surprise, then, that vigilante stories continue to be as popular as ever in our democracy which celebrated its 73rd Republic Day less than a month ago.
Directed by Behzad Khambata, “One Thursday” opens with Naina Jaiswal, a 30-year-old teacher at a preschool in Colaba in Mumbai, holding 16 children hostage. She intends to cause no harm, only wants her demands met.
Things soon escalate enough to make national news and implicate the prime minister. Yami Gautam is a revelation as Naina, delivering the best performance of her career to date. Naina is both dangerous and vulnerable, bold and confrontational. As her story unfolds, you are led to witness a victim’s journey from survivor to warrior.
Gautam is ably supported by Atul Kulkarni and Neha Dhupia, who play cops with different ideologies, working styles, and shared pasts. “A Thursday” is elegant in a way that the recent “Badhaai Do” was not. Despite the involvement of several background characters, it’s not too crowded. It deals with violence, crime, terror and trauma, but not once does it get gruesome or gory. He skilfully uses the presence of children to counterbalance the darkness and severity of the story he wants to tell.
In the form of a hostage thriller, this film is a clever commentary on how the four pillars of Indian democracy – the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and the media – came undone and frustrated its nameless and faceless population in countless ways every day. How, however powerful or impactful our profession, it boils down to work like any other, and the people we meet and impact are figures, headlines, cases and forgotten stories. It’s also a timely critique of how, despite all the din, stigma and myths around mental health abound, even among educated, woke and posh metropolitans.
Thematically, stylistically and wittily, “A Thursday” shares the same canvas as Ram Madhvani’s latest thriller Dhamaka (2021), which starred Kartik Aryan as a newscaster desperate to regain lost glory. It’s also tense, compelling and urgent.
However, it’s a little too sentimental. In particular the role of Prime Minister played by Dimple Kapadia. India has had only one female prime minister so far, and Kapadia’s Maya Rajguru is as far removed from her or anyone with political power as possible. Rajguru cares enough to bend the rules, choose beef with his babus, make promises and keep them. When she gives her impassioned speech in parliament at the climax, it is so beautiful to be true that it seems ridiculous. But, I think, Rajguru is a portrait not of what was but of what should be.
The latest addition to the long list of films about women seeking justice, the message “Thursday” is deeply polarizing. It succeeds films like “NH10”, “Kahaani”, “Mom”, “Akira” and “Angry Indian Goddesses”.
Whether you find it flawed or appropriate depends on your worldview and your privileges. However, this raises several pertinent questions. Why do such films still evoke a deeper sense of catharsis than anger despite endless debate and discussion? Why is this genre still so popular? We know the alternative route, the path to follow, but how long before it starts to show results? The questions are many. But there are no clear answers.
(Edited by : Amrita Das)
First post: STI