"Hukum, angrezi picture ka hero lage hai," Bhure (Satish Kaushik) tells his superior as he watches Siddharth (Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor) driving away in his jeep. In another scene, Gauri (Mukti Mohan) and her sister-in-law Chetna (Fatima Sana) rave about Siddharth's 'gehri aankhein' and his goodness.
But, looks can be deceptive, and so can be the world of Thar where everything turns into dust at the end! What stays behind are some stunning visuals and impeccable performances that brave the predictability of the narrative.
What's Yay: Performances, Cinematography
What's Nay: Predictable Story
Set in the dreary village of Munabao (Rajasthan), Thar opens with Anil Kapoor's weary voice recalling an episode from the year 1985. The parched landscape and its inhabitants' humdrum existence get a huge jolt when a mutilated man is found hanging from a tree. On the other hand, a gang of opium-smuggling dacoits shoots a family dead before whisking off with all their valuables.
The two crimes give Inspector Surekha Singh (Anil Kapoor) and his partner Bhure (Satish Kaushik) a chance to do some 'asli police wala kaam' as they get into action to nab the perpetrator.
Amid this, a mysterious stranger Siddharth (Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor) who claims to be an antique dealer, sets his foot in Munabao, looking for able, literate men to do a job. His interaction with a local woman Chetna (Fatima Sana Shaikh) also raises several eyebrows. Soon, Surekha and Bhure find themselves in the midst of a 'bawandar' (storm) as bullets and blood flow free on the land.
Swinging between a cold-blooded revenge saga and a western neo-noir, Raj Singh Chaudhary's directorial debut Thar suffers from a confused narrative. Another drawback is the predictability of the plot with red herrings that you can spot from a distance. Also, the world of Thar is filled with battered blood and flesh which makes for a tiresome watch after a while.
Raj brings in some 'twists', but they arrive a bit late. He tries to pack in a lot of themes like casteism, sexism and violence. However, they fail to create an impact in the larger scheme of things. In short, revenge is served bone-dry in this landscape.
The dialogues penned by Anurag Kashyap are filled with profanities which could have been easily avoided at places. Thus, in terms of story and direction, Thar turns out to be a bumpy camel ride.
Clad in hip leather jacket and shiny sunglasses, Anil Kapoor as Inspector Surekha Singh doles out a cop act which is quite different from the ones existing in his filmography. Instead of chasing the gun-trotting guys, Kapoor is more impressive when he gets to indulge in some emotional talks; be it with his partner Bhure or his wife Pranita.
Next comes Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor who is literally a man of few words in Thar. As someone with minimal dialogues, Kapoor Jr relies heavily on his facial expressions and body language to play a man who is more than meets the eye. Barring a few scenes where he lacks intensity, the actor sails smoothly through his part.
Satish Kaushik delivers an honest performance as the lower caste cop who believes, 'Is naukri mein kamse kam jaat vardi mein chhup jaati hain.' Fatima Sana Shaikh as the femme fatale with a 'ghunghat' gets to shine in parts and pieces. Mukti Mohan is effective even in a limited role as a feisty woman with brazen sexuality. Jitendra Joshi brings in the right amount of toxic masculinity and nastiness required for his character.
Shreya Dev Dube's brilliant use of the camera is one of the reasons why Thar holds your attention right from the first frame. At the same time, it also helps in putting layers on the flimsy plot.
For example, there's a frame where it is assumed that a water buffalo is resting in the desert. Later on, Dube captures the same scene again only to reveal that it was a rotting corpse of the buffalo. In a way, this is a metaphor for the cesspool of blood and gore hidden behind the quietness of the sleepy village. Another shot that left me mighty impressed is when a little girl points the hero to the address that he is searching for in the village. Her eyes have a story of their own!
Aarti Bajaj's editing is taut and helps in emphasizing the symbolism used in the storytelling.
Devoid of any songs, Thar is a crisp watch with a duration of one hour and forty-eight minutes. Ajay Jayanthi's background score seems a bit jarring at the beginning, but soon settles in.
Due to the formulaic plot and clunky execution, Anil Kapoor-Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor's Indianised version of 'curry western film' fails short of being a thrilling watch. Nevertheless, some of the performances and Shreya Dev Dube's haunting visuals keep you invested in the film. Also, a word of caution for those who cannot stomach gruesome scenes of violence. In Anil Kapoor's words, "Danger ilaka hain, kuch bhi ho sakta hain."
We give 2.5 stars out of 5 to Anil Kapoor-Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor starrer Thar.