India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Inkaar: Just say no to this one

January 16, 2013

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Reuters)

Sexual harassment at the workplace, office politics and the question of whether women can make it to senior management in misogynistic companies plague many professionals in India.

To see all this depicted on screen, that too in a thriller is a novel idea in Bollywood. Director Sudhir Mishra starts off racily enough in “Inkaar” — portraying life in a trendy ad agency and sketching his characters along the way.

Rahul Varma (Arjun Rampal) is the suave, hard-nosed CEO, who is accused of sexual harassment by his colleague Maya Luthra (Chitrangada Singh). In a series of flashbacks, they narrate their story to a social worker, (Deepti Naval) who has been appointed by the agency for the case.

Mishra makes it interesting enough at the beginning by introducing a bit of suspense, giving you a sense that you don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong. But it all unravels pretty quickly.

In flashbacks, it is revealed that Rahul is Maya’s mentor, guiding and helping her through ignorant clients and difficult campaigns. Soon, the employee-boss façade gives way and the two slip into a relationship, one that goes awry when Maya wises up to Rahul’s philandering ways.

Rahul and Maya’s flashbacks are peppered with ear-splitting background music, and much hamming on the part of Singh, who seems to think that shrieking in a high-pitched voice is what amounts to acting.

In contrast, Arjun Rampal drawls, grins lopsidedly and plays the charming, worldly-wise CEO to the hilt. But what is really at fault here is Mishra’s superficial handling of the subject and the way he concludes “Inkaar”, rendering the narrative regressive and offensive both to women AND men.

The climax, again set to loud background music and a bathroom light that flickers irritatingly is so full of clichés and homilies that you wish this was the one time Bollywood hadn’t taken the usual route and had dared to be different.

“Inkaar” has the seed of a good story but the characters don’t turn out to be ones you care about, nor does the narrative grip you enough to keep you engaged.

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