Just like its name, Pataakha is explosive right from the first scene itself. A tight close-up shot of two young girls showering each other with swear words is shown. Years pass by, but these two sisters and their curses for each other refuse to take a backseat.
While they are named after flowers, Champa aka 'Badki' (Radhika Madan) and Genda aka 'Chutki' (Sanya Malhotra), they are anything but dainty and docile. With their haystack hair, rough and coarse, not-so pearly whites stained with smoking beedis and filthy language, the girls are flammable and unbashed and can pick up a fight at the drop of a hat. Their razor sharp tongue spew acidic words at each other at supersonic speed and 'gobar-fights' are no big-deal. Meanwhile, there's their nosy neighbour named Dipper (Sunil Grover) who never misses an opportunity to spark off a war between the two sisters.
Chutki dreams of going to school so that she can open one of her own. Badki on the other hand, wants to stay out of school and start her own dairy business. Amidst their warring ambitions, the two sisters feel the first rush of young romance when they come across their suitors. One is an engineer while the other works in the army and has a penchant for speaking in English.
Things take a more dramatic turn when their father (Vijay Raaz) who needs money to pay off a bribe in order to save his mining business, is left with no other option but to get one of the daughters married to a rich widower Patel (Saanand Verma). In a twist, both the girls runaway with their respective boyfriends only to land up in the same house as sister-in-laws.
Like it's said in the film, 'Hum Apni Dushman To Chunn Saktay Hai Par Padosi Nahin, Rishtay To Chunn Saktay Hai Par Rishtay Daar Nahin.'
Vishal Bharwaj's Pataakha is weaved into a 140 minute narrative from Charan Singh Pathik's 6 page story titled Do Behenein. The director adds various layers to the film by turning the two warring sisters into a metaphor for India-Pakistan rivalry. He blends the social commentary in a subtle way with his characters and rural setting. Vishal Bhardwaj lits up Pataakha with his two fiesty female leads to give you a trail of brilliant performances.
On the flip side, the plot gets a tad repetitive in the second half and seems dragging. Thankfully, Sunil Grover comes to the rescue and pulls up the strings.
Radhika Madan shines bright as Badki. From stealing her little sister's western-wear to scoping out men with a pair of binoculars at the village, she is perfect in her bossy role. She aces it even when she bites her dupatta in mock-shyness or delivers blows to her sister during flights.
Sanya Malhotra is fearless as Chutkki and sinks her teeth deep into her earthy character. Her wide grin when she comes up with a nuclear abuse is enough to crack you up. One more top-notch act from her after Dangal.
Sunil Grover as Dipper is a total laughter-riot. One of my favourite scenes in the film is where he asks the wedding band to continue playing the music and then he breaks into a cheap pelvic thrust dance move. That expression on his face is just priceless!
Vijay Raaz nails it as the helpless Bapu. Abishek Duhan and Namit Das too lend a stong support.
Instead of framing Rajasthan into a picturesque postcard, Ranjan Palit's lens give us a closer view of the rustic landscape keeping in the authenticity of the location backdrop. A Sreekar Prasad's editing scissors could have snipped off some 15-20 minutes on the second half. Vishal Bhardwaj's writing is rib-ticklingly funny.
Speaking about the music, 'Balma' stands out for its quirky lyrics and Rekha Bhardwaj and Sunidhi Chauhan's powerful vocals. Arijit Singh's Naina Banjare is soothing to the ears. The title track, 'Pataakha' adds fun.
Vishal Bhardwaj's creative touch adds colors to Pataakha and makes it an enjoyable fare with the dynamite performances. Minus the gloss, this small-town story makes its way into your hearts with his dollops of desiness. I am going with 3.5 stars.