By Ananya Borgohain
The capital of the largest democracy in the world is a despicable abyss, which engulfs humanity every day with such a force that it leaves only the shallowest scars behind. December 16, 2012 was one such day when deplorable facets of humanity manifested in the appalling actions of six persons. Ever since, there has been an urgency to attune the society to gender sensitisation, to educate it on several forms of sexual harassment and equip with measures to control disruptions; ever since, we have witnessed substantial destabilisation of the collective conscience of the people as well. Sudhir Mishra’s Inkaar comes a month after the gangrape disaster and presents amusing conundrums concerning sexual harassment at the workplace. Rahul Verma (Arjun Rampal) and Maya Luthra (Chitrangada Singh), the CEO and the National Creative Director respectively of an advertising firm are entangled in an allegation of sexual harassment charged by the latter against the former.
The film ostensibly seeks to locate the answers to significant queries as to what qualifies as sexual harassment and what the counter arguments for the same are. What is different about the movie is that the bone of contention is not a definite act of rape or the attempt to rape but a mundane power structure, of which, sexual politics is an internalised facet. Sexual harassment here manifests in the conversations, in an act of staring, in innuendos and so on and not necessarily in forcibly seducing the woman.
The movie follows a non-linear narrative where both Rahul and Maya furnish their versions through flashbacks in three days. It opens with Rahul’s father (played by Kanwaljeet) presenting the dictum to his child which more or less builds the genesis of the movie, “When someone denies you what is rightfully yours, snatch it from them.” The movie is then entangled in a consistent crisis of hierarchy, the dislocation of power and the blurring of the line of difference between truth and scandal. Rahul grows up to be the ambitious, talented and successful genius who meets his match in Maya. Maya, rightly named, is the temptress who is motivated, efficient and candid. It is commendable how she holds herself in spite of the fact that the script does not support her. Maya is mystical and complicated and her colleagues attribute her aura to her alleged sexual liaisons with the authorities.
Inkaar, then, raises pertinent questions, such as, what is the difference between playful flirting and sexual harassment? Can a promiscuous woman’s allegations of sexual harassment against her former lover be deemed genuine? What if it is the man who is being harassed by the woman? What qualifies as harassment? Above all, it presents one crucial scene in two different ways where both Rahul and Maya present their versions and the audience have to see through what the truth (if any) is, much like how Akira Kurosawa tried to establish in his masterpiece Rashoman that truths are mere versions of people.
Where the movie falters, besides unimpressive promotional campaigns, is its weak plot line. The script has limited substance and towards the end, the grave issue of sexual harassment is reduced to an inconsequential status. Given the fact that the movie was promoted as a depiction of gender violence and unscrupulous sexual manipulation at workplace, the climax does not befit the cause it had upheld. There is a role reversal in the second half where the female gets an upper hand in the firm’s decision making process, but that instantly takes a toll on her personal as well as professional equations. Her chauvinist boyfriend leaves her as an attempt to save his reputation, and her colleagues, mostly and not surprisingly, the men, resort to supporting the alpha male CEO. It defeats the cause of gender sensitising, and sexual harassment in general remains an ambiguous term though the narrative does expose us to amusing debates where tables are constantly turned and interesting twists are introduced. Mishra, in that process tries his best to provide an uncompromising, balanced view. There is neither the stereotyped damsel in distress nor the ruthless power-hungry male figure in this movie. The convoluted human relations as well as their complex emotions are the highlights of the movie, where things are more than what meets the eye.
Watch Inkaar for the intelligent narrative technique employed, the rational, unbiased act of story-telling and the occasional traces of dark humour. Watch it for the tropes used by the director as well for seeing love in an eccentric, difficult form. The second half of the movie too, begins with another ‘dictum’ by Kanwaljeet, “If I don’t retort today, my son would cease to take me seriously.” The movie ends with a similar moral, “If someone proves you wrong, never detach yourself from that person ever.” Interestingly, though it is Rahul’s father making the statements, it is Maya who seems to inculcate them in her actions. Deepti Naval and Vipin Sharma successfully establish their presence and grip over their roles in the movie with their intricate performances. If you read between the lines of the track Khamoshiya, you might get a hint about what is coming your way. Another asset of the movie is its very title — Inkaar — meaning an act of refusal, which is actually the most fundamental trope in the movie.
It is in all genuine sense a unique love story which folds and unfolds itself within hierarchical circumstances which victimises the lover. Inkaar could be a misleading movie based on sexual harassment, but as far as the screenplay, narrative and performances are concerned, they definitely try their collective best to present an appealing product.
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