Pitaah is riveting, hard-hitting and gripping. Mahesh Manjrekar is one director who has had many ups and downs, but it is to be expected as he does many films and experiments with different themes. Here he tackles a bold and sensitive subject and, in my opinion, handles it very well. Set in a village, the film tells the story of Rudra, a poor, illiterate peasant who is employed as a slave-like labourer by the wealthy and influential landowner of the village, Thakur. The story follows a shocking incident as Rudra's 9 year-old daughter is brutally raped by Thakur's two sons, and later on Rudra and his wife Paro's attempts to seek justice, which sounds rather impossible and funny in a village where everyone is either corrupted or terrified of just hearing Thakur's name.
Pitaah deals with child abuse, corruption, and the oppression of poor villagers. Although the execution is credible, it's not a completely realistic film, and that may actually be the reason for its success. It is shocking, disturbing, violent and unusual, and it is also very enjoyable. The characters are characterised very well, and the proceedings leave no stone unturned in the portrayal of the crude, almost funny complexity of the village and its nefarious systems. The second half is weaker in terms of script and execution, as it becomes more typical and has several flaws, but I personally was still rather captivated. The action is excellent and it is used to the best effect. The film is after all very interesting, moving and intriguing, and that's what matters, at least to me.
Where acting goes, Pitaah belongs to Sanjay Dutt and he is simply excellent in a greatly understated and convincing performance. He brilliantly captures Rudra's quietly tormented nature and inner pain. His subdued body language, worried eyes and natural simplicity really make him very easy to identify with. Nandita Das is as always exotically beautiful while still looking earthy, simple and authentic. As Paro, she is headstrong, brave, and it is her feisty nature which motivates Rudra to fight for justice. Das is extremely effective in the role. Jackie Shroff is incredibly entertaining and likable in a colourful, ambiguous role. Om Puri is fantastic as the villain Thakur, and Mita Vasisht shines as his wife. Overall then, Pitaah is a good film which is definitely recommended.
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