Cast: Kirti Kulhari, Tota Roy Choudhary, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Anupam Kher
Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Producers: Bhandarkar Entertainment, Bharat Shah
Writers: Madhur Bhandarkar
What's Yay: Kirti Kulhari
What's Nay: The cautionary approach to the subject, lack of perspective
Popcorn Refill: Interval
Iconic Moment: The scenes of marital discord between Indu (Kirti Kulhari) and her husband Navin (Tota Roy Choudhary) are quite impactful.
The title on the screen reads "1975: Emergency", which is followed by a shot of the famous blank editorial in the Indian Express. Indu Sarkar starts off with brutal scenes of a forced vasectomy drive in Mubanapur village near Punjab-Haryana border. This is just a glimpse of one of the most darkest periods in the world's biggest democracy wherein a power-drunk government had almost allowed dictatorship to raise its ugly head.
Elsewhere in the country, an orphan, Indu (Kirti Kulhari) is a woman with a stammer who seeks solace in poems until she meets an over-ambitious bureaucrat, Navin Sarkar (Tota Roy Choudhary) and gets hitched to him.
When Navin's boss demands poems to go along with his pro-Emergency speeches, Indu agrees. However, her life takes a different turn when she witnesses violence at Turkman Gate in Delhi. There, she rescues two orphaned kids but soon finds herself at the opposing end of her husband's views on Emergency. Circumstances force Indu to make a tough choice. But, she finds her voice and chooses to walk out on Navin who mocks her by saying, "Haklaate haklaate haq maangne chali."
Is Indu right in choosing a life of rebellion?
While Bollywood shies away from making films with political themes in fear of inviting controversy, Madhur Bhandarkar makes a brave attempt of turning back the pages to one of the most darkest chapters of Indian political history. Unfortunately, the filmmaker refrains from making a bold comment on it and instead focusses on the protagonist's emotional struggle.
The film does make references to several real-life incidents which took place during the Emergency period - the forced sterilization to curb population, the demolition of slums and police firing at Turkman Gate in Delhi under the guise of city beautification, the curbing on freedom of press and the crackdown on poltical activists.
While Madhur refrains from taking names for obvious reasons, you know that the hot-headed Chief (Neil Nitin Mukesh) is modelled on Sanjay Gandhi and the Prime Minister refers to Indira Gandhi as you find the mention of the 'five point programme' and 'MISA' along with the sly dialogue pertaining to a certain 'maa-beta' making its way in the narrative.
Indu Sarkar totally belongs to Kirti Kulhari as the actress effectively carries the film on her sturdy shoulders. Hers is one of the best sketched characters in the film.
Tota Roy Choudhary is impressive as Indu's husband. Neil Nitin Mukesh's striking resemblance to Sanjay Gandhi simply can't be ignored. The actor in his extended cameo puts up a good show although you hear him speak lines like 'Sarkarein challenges se nahi...chabuk se chalti hai' and 'Emergency mein emotion nahi...mere orders chalte hai' which seem to be straight out of a typical Bollywood potboiler.
Poor, Supriya Vinod! The lady is barely there in one frame; blame it on the censorship who went chop-chop when it come to her scenes.
Keiko Nakahara's cinematography perfectly captures the bygone era whereas Devendra Murdeshwar could have been a little bit sharper to go a bit light on the melodrama.
Indu Sarkar's music is nothing out-of-the-box. Though the song 'Chadha Sooraj Dheere Dheere' has some meaningful lyrics, it's very abruptly placed in the film and hinders the narrative.
Indu Sarkar dares to step into murkier waters, but fails to save itself from drowning due to the heavy melodramatic content. There's a scene in the film where Indu bursts out, "Jab sab chup hain, koi toh chikhega." Unfortunately, Madhur's film fails to be that scream!