Direction: Sudhir Mishra
Actors: Arjun Rampal, Chitrangda Singh, Vipin Sharma
Sixty-three years ago, in the classic Rashomon, director Akira Kurosawa showed us that truth is slippery, subjective and ultimately unknowable. In Inkaar, writer-director Sudhir Mishra attempts a similar take on sexual politics in the workplace.
Two attractive, ambitious individuals work in an ad agency – Maya (played by Chitrangda Singh) and Rahul (played by Arjun Rampal). An incident takes place. We get two takes on the same story. He says it was harmless flirtation. She accuses him of sexual harassment.
It’s an intriguing premise and Mishra sets it up well. The plot of the film plays out over three days, days during which a committee presided over by a social worker (played by Deepti Naval) examines Maya’s allegations.
Flashbacks, told from both points of view, show us how the relationship moved from mentor-protégé to intimacy to ‘sexual harassment’. What works is that, like the social worker, we remain confused.
Rahul sees flirting as a natural outcome of men and women working long hours in confined spaces. Maya says he spitefully undermined her because she quickly rose up the corporate ladder.
Politics, greed, insecurity – all come into play. For a while, the film grips you because both arguments seem equally valid.
Unfortunately, however, Mishra is unable to build his premise with power. The watershed film on sexual harassment is Barry Levinson’s Disclosure, which was remade in India as Aitraaz.
Disclosure was a pulp thriller, interesting only as lightweight entertainment. Toward the end of Disclosure, Demi Moore, who plays the sexually predatory boss, says: ‘I’m only playing the game the way you guys set it up and I’m being punished for it.’
Maya echoes her. After she gets a major promotion, she arbitrarily fires people and justifies it by saying: ‘In alpha males ke beech mein agar ek ambitious woman ko jagah banani hai na, toh thoda bahut alpha woman banna padta hai.’ Dialogue like this makes it very hard to take this film seriously.
It doesn’t help that the other characters are so limp – the firm’s foreign partner looks like Bob Christo’s long-lost brother; another colleague, Nimmi, starts laughing in the midst of the very serious inquiry; and Naval as a social worker wears distractingly large earrings and says lines like ‘I really need to get at the bottom of this’.
There are too many cheesy parties where everyone gets drunk, and the climax is a staggeringly disappointing cop-out. It undermines everything that has gone before.
What, you wonder, was the whole war about?Arjun and Chitrangada work hard to give Inkaar heft. Both struggle to bring conviction to their characters. But ultimately the film remains a dish half-baked.