Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar movie review: A quiet tale of unlikely allies and kindness in unexpected places
Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is a mixed bag but I found myself drawn to its heartening conviction that kindness may be found in the most unexpected places.
castParineeti Chopra, Arjun Kapoor, Neena Gupta, Raghubir Yadav, Jaideep Ahlawat
Sandeep bumps into a young woman called Pinky on the street one day. There is a misunderstanding between them. They fight unrelentingly and it becomes clear that they cannot stand the sight of each other. He has already noticed how pretty she is though and soon starts stalking her. She repeatedly objects, until one day her half-smile to the camera when he is not watching tells the audience that actually she is attracted to him too. The sniping is just a mask. Cut to pyaar ka izhaar. Cut to objections from parents. Cut to Sandeep and Pinky eloping.
Since too many sections of Bollywood are still driven by formulae, I amused myself by thinking up this possible story when I first heard the name Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar (Sandeep and Pinky Are On The Run). Boy meets girl. Boy and girl clash. Boy and girl are attracted to each other. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl run away from home to overcome familial hurdles in the path of their ishq. Ho hum.
The cynicism is justified but also, in this case, misplaced. Because as it turns out, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is a reminder that Bollywood is, in truth, a heterogeneous industry filled with surprises, some of which go by conventional-sounding film titles that intentionally throw the viewer off the scent of their unconventional storylines.
Dibakar Banerjee’s Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, that the director has co-written with Varun Grover, is about two people who are forced to help each other when caught in a seemingly impossible situation. Sandeep Walia a.k.a. Sandy (Parineeti Chopra) and Satinder Dahiya a.k.a. Pinky (Arjun Kapoor) are thrown together when she escapes a murder attempt and he realises that the person who was targeting her would have finished him off too.
She is a highly educated, high-ranking official in a leading Indian private bank. He is a scruffy disgraced policeman from the Haryana force. Like the title, her veneer of sophistication and his unpolished demeanour both camouflage more than they let on. As the two make their way from flashy Gurgaon to the town of Pithoragarh in the mountains of Uttarakhand, we gradually find out why a killer tried to get her, and they form an alliance initially led by compulsion and later by choice.
The pace at which Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar moves and the slowness with which it makes its revelations sometimes weigh it down, as does its intermittent obliqueness. However, from the opening scene on a highway in Gurgaon, what works is its single-minded focus on the idea that nothing is what it seems – in life, as in the film – and no one should be assumed to be what their façade suggests that they are. We are compelled to note that evil can come in benign packaging, through the chilling, unforeseeable violence of Sand
Unlike Chopra and Kapoor’s first film together, the energetically explosive but deeply problematic Ishaqzaade (2012), this one is a slow burn – faulty but sufficiently unusual to be engaging.
We learn too little of what made Sandeep and Pinky who they are now. She is the focal point of the story, but not enough is revealed about her motivations until the point at which we first meet her in the film. Still, what happens to Sandeep and Pinky in the present day offers up interesting snapshots of corruption, colourful vignettes of small-town life, a terrifyingly realistic note on the vicious resentment that the most harmless-looking men might harbour towards a woman who seems unreachable to them, all this paralleled by an overarching faith in humankind.
The protagonists of Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar slip up in underestimating their opponents, but their enemies too slip up by underestimating them as a result, and a man errs in directing condescension at a woman who has a mind of her own.
Chopra and Kapoor are likeable actors and do a reasonably good job here, though their performances, like their characterisation, could have done with more depth. (Note: it is nice to see the female star's name before the man’s in the credits for a change.) A couple that the leads encounter in Pithoragarh are actually better written, and the actors playing them – Neena Gupta and Raghubir Yadav – are priceless.
Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is clearly aiming at a meditative tone with its narrative style, unobtrusive background score (by Banerjee himself) and sound design (by Nithin Lukose), and silently observant camera. Sometimes the understatement gets too much, but more often than not it works. As the story dips towards the middle, a horrifying turn of events lifts it up again. The film is a mixed bag but I found myself drawn to its quietude and to its heartening conviction that kindness may be found in the most unexpected places and the most unexpected persons could turn out to be allies, sometimes without the expectation of anything in return.
Rating: 2.75 (out of 5 stars)
Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is currently playing in theatres.
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