Nitishastra review: Taapsee Pannu's rape-revenge short film feels like a parody of Pink
In Nitishastra, the character of the rapist ends up going to jail only to run off and get killed by Taapsee Pannu, who must take the law in her own hands because Pink?
Somewhere in Delhi, a young, independent woman (Taapsee Pannu) offers self-defence classes to other young girls. She's clear in her objective — to equip every single girl in her class with relevant training to take on the world; and she lives with her brother and mother. However, later in the short, just like Arjuna in Mahabharata, she must choose between family and dharma to bring about justice. This is the premise of Nitishastra, the rape-revenge short, which also marks Pannu's short film debut.
With Pink and Naam Shabana, Pannu is known as an actor who can deliver punches and feminist messaging efficiently. However, Nitishastra is no Pink when it comes to women's rights and what they must (be expected to) do to achieve them. It's hard not to think of the short as a parody of the Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury-directed courtroom drama. It is even harder to believe that Taapsee agreed to be part of Nitishastra.
For a rape-revenge short, Nitishastra does the unforgivable: does not provide any sort of explanation for the rapist's psychology. One moment, the male protagonist (Vicky Arora) is fighting for more kheer at the dinner table, and in the next, he turns into a brutal rapist.
There is an unnecessary amount of scenes involving kickboxing, punching and martial arts, presumably to establish that Taapsee plays a self-defense instructor. But it gets tiring watching two grownups throwing each other on table tops for ten minutes.
Taapsee, whose repertoire as an actor could put a lot of her contemporaries to shame, tries her best to breathe life into a story that lacks direction and depth. However, her act of being an 'aware' woman feels forced due to lack of context. Her stone-cold expression in Pink is different and deserves to be remembered for years to come. But her over-the-top demeanour in Nitishastra is easily forgettable.
Multiple tropes in the film feel like Bollywood clichés reproduced in a short film setting. The overexcited little brother; the responsible sister; the dinner table fights which are supposed to make you say: 'God, when will these two grow up'; the last rites scene (which must be accompanied by heavy rainfall because you cannot be dry while mourning). Several scenes in the film are over-dramatised and border on comedy that doesn't seem funny, especially when you are dealing with a subject as sensitive as rape.
The ending leaves very little room for logic and might leave you scratching your head. But the good news is, the alleged rapist ends up going to jail only to run off and get killed by Taapsee, who must take the law into her own hands after turning him in to the police because Pink?
Watch Nitishastra here:
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