Cast: Arshad Warsi, Naseeruddin Shah, Divya Dutta, Sharad Kelkar, Sagarika Ghatge
Director: Aparnaa Singh
There are some inconvenient truths that we avoid looking when development is involved. And then comes a film which grabs us by the neck and forces us to take notice of a world different from ours. Director Aparnaa Singh’s Irada brings us face to face with harsh realities in Punjab.
Hundreds of new cases of cancer are being reported every year in the state that is known as the rice bowl of India and most of them belong to a particular geographical area. Irada suggests the reason behind it could be reverse-boring, a technical term for dumping chemical residuals into the earth.
Irada doesn’t intend to be a documentary and thus it narrates the story via Parabjeet Walia (Naseeruddin Shah), a master planner whose daughter is in cancer’s death grip. The political hierarchy, spearheaded by razor-tongued chief minister Ramandeep Braitch (Divya Dutta), behaves like the proverbial ostrich in the sand and is only concerned about the donations it gets from the pharmaceutical mafia.
This nexus becomes all the more evident when National Investigation Agency (NIA) officer Arjun Mishra (Arshad Warsi) comes to Punjab to investigate a murder case that’s getting complicated every minute.
Disguised as a Good Samaritan’s fight for justice, Irada talks about systematic corruption or rather the lack of willpower to curb it. Divya Dutta’s terrifyingly authoritative CM is more than just grey. She hurls abuses and symbolises political parasites, who want to retain power by hook or crook.
She is aptly supported by Sharad Kelkar’s ironically named character Paddy Sharma, a privileged pharmaceutical executive. It’s people like Paddy Sharma who are contaminating the local water. He dares the CM to take action against him and shows how democratically elected leaders are captive to donors with deep pockets.
Constructed on the lines of A Wednesday, Irada tries to look like a thriller but fails to sustain the initial momentum as many sub-stories cross paths. The film struggles to give every story a fair chance to unfold but loses the grip on the central theme in the process.
It comes down to the actors to stop it from crumbling. Here, Singh enjoys assistance from stellar performers like Shah, Warsi, Kelkar and Dutta.
Warsi reminds us of his 2005 Sehar. He doesn’t go overboard and underplays a sharp cop, a rarity in Hindi films. Shah displays a wide range which he has perfected over the years, and Dutta looks ruthless and ambitious as the corrupt CM. In between, Kelkar also throws in some punches.
But this is not what Irada will be known for. Its head-on take on the overuse of natural resources should be considered an alarm bell. The epidemic can spread to other places even before we realise and if it is in our hands to restrict the menace, we should better act.
Also, it’s the age of theme-driven films and Irada has a strong one.
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