India Lockdown review: Madhur Bhandarkar's high-on-emotions drama revisits horrors of the pandemic
India Lockdown review: The Madhur Bhandarkar film keeps things pretty much real without adding melodramatic twists and turns.
I don't think anyone can forget the evening of March 24, 2020 when a nationwide lockdown was announced for 21 days following the Covid-19 outbreak. Almost three years later, filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar's film — India Lockdown — takes you back to those dark times, and makes an earnest attempt to recreate the horrors that everyone felt in different ways with the onset of the pandemic. With four parallel stories detailing varied aspects of human emotions and dilemmas, the film doesn't give you much time to think in between. Despite being a cinematic recreation of repercussions of the first and subsequent lockdowns in the country, India Lockdown keeps things pretty much real without adding melodramatic twists and turns.
Everyone turning home chefs, trying new recipes every day, young couples getting restless not being able to go out on dates, long queues outside grocery stores, mandatory health checks and home quarantine, reluctance to wear masks -- Bhandarkar picks on diverse elements and narrates their tales with minute details. At two hours, the film is crisp and doesn't needlessly digress between plots. And absence of any song or dance sequence is just a bonus.
More than the story and screenplay, the winner in India Lockdown is its casting and nuanced performances from each of the actors. Of all the stories that the film touched, my favourites are the ones about migrants and sex workers, and how adversely their life got affected while dealing with bare minimum resources for survival.
The track with migrant couple Madhav and Phoolmati (Prateik Babbar and Sai Tamhankar) with two little daughters will break your heart. The havoc that the lockdown caused to this section of the society is beyond common man's imagination. The heartwrenchnig scenes of them walking miles every day in scorching heat, sometimes without food and water, will leave a lump in your throat. Babbar emotes his part so well and he lets the pain his character is going through move you. There's a sequence where Babbar digs into a pile of garbage looking for some food -- that is just so distressing. Tamhankar, too, is very strong and convincing in her part.
The story about a sex worker, Mehrunissa (Shweta Basu Tripathi) in Mumbai's Kamathupura is a mix of joy and sorrow. Joy to see how these women can't do their job which involves physical touch yet they find ways to crack a joke at each other, smile and stay happy in difficult times. Prasad is a revelation and outstanding in her performance that makes you wonder what kind of prep she did for this role that it looks so effortless on screen. Her body language, mannerisms, accent and everything is just on-point and never looks out of the place. There are a few dialogues, and scenes, which might make some uncomfortable and even cringe, but that's the beauty of Bhandarkar's film. He brings you closer to reality in the most real way.
Aahana Kumra as Moon Alves, a commercial pilot, who is now homebound because all flights are halted would connect with all working professionals who just got sick of work-from-home arrangement after a point. Kumra, I felt, went a little overboard with her character in terms of its look and the way she talks and behaves. Last story about a father, M Nageshwar Rao (Prakash Belawadi) and his pregnant daughter Swathi (Hrishita Bhatt) are stuck in different cities is cute in its own way. I enjoyed watching the scenes with Rao as a senior citizen being extra cautious, with his mask always up and living alone in his house with his dog.
With India Lockdown, I'm glad that Bhandarkar didn't take the preachy route of giving us moral lessons through his film, instead he captures the essence of these human stories which is the most relatable aspect of the film. Celebrating getting a negative Covid report, dressing up at home with nowhere to go, video calls becoming a way of life and 'new normal' making its place in everyone's lives - India Lockdown has a piece of all of us. I definitely hope (and want) that Bhandarkar comes out with a sequel to this film, detailing the horrors of second wave of Covid that claimed several lives and the entire healthcare system of the country was in shambles. Until then, watch this and remember how you adjusted to the new normal.
Cast: Shweta Basu Prasad, Prateik Babbar, Aahana Kumra, Sai Tamhankar, Prakash Belawadi
Director: Madhur Bhandarkar