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Thar movie review: A grisly revenge drama uplifted by Anil Kapoor’s charisma and stunning cinematography

Thar movie review: A grisly revenge drama uplifted by Anil Kapoor’s charisma and stunning cinematography

Thar movie review: A grisly revenge drama uplifted by Anil Kapoor’s charisma and stunning cinematography
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By Sneha Bengani  May 7, 2022 2:00 PM IST (Updated)

Starring Anil Kapoor, Harshvarrdhan Kapoor, Fatima Sana Sheikh, Satish Kaushik, and Jitendra Joshi in important roles, Thar is streaming on Netflix.

Set in Munabao, a sleepy, parched hamlet near the Rajasthan-Pakistan border, Raj Singh Chaudhary’s Thar is a tribute to American Westerns. It has all the usual elements—blood, gore, violence, an arid, nondescript village lost in time, local gangsters, svelte village belles, an ageing inspector, and a brooding, mysterious stranger. All of it wonderfully supported by stunning scenic visuals of remote Rajasthan.

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I am a Rajasthani. I have been raised in the desert state. I know the geography like a native should and yet, I watched Shreya Dev Dube’s skilled camerawork with open-mouthed wonder. Thar’s cinematography is its hero. The desiccated terrain, the barren hills, the omnipresent dust, and the aridity of it all is so palpable, that you can feel the acute lack. Of water, vegetation, humanity. Dubey’s prowess does not just provide the right setting for the drama to unfold, it gives the film its true protagonist and thence the title.
The other thing that stands out about Thar is its depiction of brutality. It’s as savage and unapologetic as the acts themselves. This Netflix film is disturbingly graphic. Even by the standards of Westerns and revenge dramas. Violence begets violence, but be warned, this one shows it all—the severing of body parts, the mutilation, the slow torture, the immolation—up close and in distressing detail.
At the heart of it all is Inspector Surekha Singh, a weather-beaten cop six months away from retirement, played with inimitable swag by Anil Kapoor. His official rank does not justify his acumen for his job and his spirit to do it well. Dissatisfied with his unremarkable, middling career, he wants to go out with a bang. And soon enough, an opportunity plays out. There’s a shootout involving cross-border drug smuggling and a local man is found hanging from a tree, inhumanly mutilated. Surekha spurs into action.
Chaudhary’s writing and the additional screenplay by Yogesh Dabuwalla and Anthony Catino make Surekha a well-rounded man. His scenes with his wife and son are few but not without impact. They prevent him from being a trope, a cardboard cutout. That’s true of all the other key characters too. Whether it be Jitendra Joshi’s Panna, the abusive, ominous husband of Fatima Sana Shaikh’s Chetna or Satish Kaushik’s Bhure, Surekha’s ageing, unfit assistant who belongs to a low caste, or Mukti Mohan’s Gauri, a feisty young mother, Thar gives them all enough room to flourish.
Except for Harshvarrdhan Kapoor’s Siddharth. He hardly has any dialogues in the film. Sure, his character is inscrutable by design. But it is so underdeveloped that you find it difficult to mourn his loss even after the big reveal. Thar makes you question the unfairness of it all but it fails to let you in Siddharth’s head or heart. Or even his world. You know so little about him that you feel like a bystander.
If you’re looking forward to seeing the on-screen chemistry of the Kapoor father-son duo, how good or great they are together, you’d be disappointed. Because the film doesn’t give them much time with each other. Though it places both of them in Munabao, their paths hardly cross, and whenever they do, their exchange is perfunctory, minimal. I’d love to watch the two of them together in a film again soon, in roles that make better, more delightful use of their off-screen relationship.
In its treatment and tonality, Thar will remind you of Abhishek Chaubey’s 2019 film Sonchiriya. Set in Chambal in 1975 (10 years before Thar’s timeline), it revolves around a group of dacoits and has memorable performances by Manoj Bajpayee, Sushant Singh Rajput, and Ranvir Shorey. However, in its messaging, Thar takes after Sriram Raghavan’s Badlapur (2015) and Suresh Triveni’s Jalsa, which released early this year. Both the films, even though they handle the subject in starkly different ways, they are thought-provoking meditations on the need and the futility of revenge.
Thar ends as it begins—with Surekha’s monologue used as a voiceover, first to introduce the setting and finally to tie all the loose ends. In the climactic sequence, he says philosophically, “Badla lene wala hamesha do kabar khodta hai, ek dushman ki, ek apni.” Who can argue with that?
Read other pieces by Sneha Bengani here.
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