‘Thar’: A Desolate Story That Matches the Landscape
Cuss words and gory scenes try to insinuate some tension in ‘Thar,’ but it’s all so barren that nothing holds your interest
Thar (108 minutes)
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Harshvardhan Kapoor, Fatima Sana Sheikh, Satish Kaushik, Jitendra Joshi, Mukti Mohan
Direction: Raj Singh Chaudhary
Streaming on Netflix
There’s a simple and brutally honest way to measure a film’s worth: Consider the time you spent watching it and then think if you would have been better off spending that amount of time doing something else.
I have watched Thar and I can think of at least 75 things I could have done instead of trying to make sense of the film, including rearranging my socks by color.
Thar, written and directed by Raj Singh Chaudhary, shot by Shreya Dev Dube and produced by the Kapoor papa and beta duo, is a wannabe Western. It has the setting, the vibe and the color palette. It looks, walks and frowns like a Western, but it doesn’t act or talk or shoot like one. Thar, which tells a tale of gore and revenge, has that annoying Bollywood stench that emanates from borrowed ideas made worse by bad writing.
Set in Rajasthan in 1985, Thar follows three different sets of people who are moving around a village close to the Pakistan border. It opens with hurried, secret making-out that’s interrupted by some villagers getting shot.
There is a gang of dacoits that kills seemingly for drugs, arms, ammunition and general hubris. Then there is Siddharth (Harshvardhan Kapoor), a city man who drives a jeep and skulks around the village with a beard, a grumpy look, and, it seems, an agenda.
And finally there is Inspector Surekha Singh (Anil Kapoor) who, along with his junior, played by Satish Kaushik, goes from one dead body to another trying to figure out who killed whom and why.
Some villagers have simply been shot without much ado, while others are murdered brutally. We see the dacoits shooting villagers, but we don’t see who cuts off a man’s ear and then hangs him from a tree. We are just treated to boots in a slow march.
In the village lives beauteous Kesar (Fatima Sana Sheikh), whose husband, along with two others, has gone to the city for work.
Siddharth keeps coming around. He says he deals in antiques and wants to hire Kesar’s husband for some work in Delhi. But his city-cool presence arouses interest. Kesar is intrigued and seems to like him while villagers gossip about her but decide she is not worthy of being told off because she can’t conceive. They will let her husband deal with her.
Kesar’s husband returns. Siddharth pays and sends him off along with another villager to the city and moves into her house as a paying guest.
But close by, in an abandoned, old haveli, two men scream “Why?” as they are hung and tortured with long nails, a bucket and a rat.
The cops are looking for clues, witnesses and missing men. The dacoits are looking for illegal stuff and safe passage. And Siddharth is looking for god knows what.
To do this, they all move around in jeeps made by a particular company. Zero marks for guessing which one.
Thar’s dialogue are by Anurag Kashyap, so there is a lot of MC, BC. Cuss words and bloody, gory scenes try to insinuate some tension in the film, but the characters are so dull, the story so barren that nothing holds your interest. Except Fatima Sana Sheikh, who is very good and a delight to watch.
Like every film set in the Wild West, Thar’s landscape is dry, sandy, barren. The colour palette is mostly shades of beige and browns with some CGI buffaloes thrown in. Some string instrument is forever in play.
But apart from being an exhibition of Western-spaghetti tropes, the film has little else.
Its characters and story are a jumble of incomplete and often incomprehensible ideas. As if the writers started developing a character, a story strand, but then got bored and dropped it there. Nothing feels completed. Everything is a bit vague.
Surekha Singh is forever whining about how he will retire as an inspector and even gets weepy-eyed. But nothing comes of this. A seemingly important man arrives riding a horse, shoots a bird, insults the inspector and amounts to nothing.
Somewhere around the village is a Western-style saloon where a big man in trousers held up by suspenders serves up chai and keeps an eye out. But it is nothing more than a curious setting.
There is a woman who is unhappy in her marriage. She finds some happiness but then…
Some films are disappointing and you know why because despite being bad, they engage. You wish they had done things better, fixed that crack, ironed out that crimp. But with some films, there isn’t any fixing. You just wish the universe would return your money and the time you wasted on them.
Thar owes me one hour and 42 minutes and Bollywood owes us an explanation about why it keeps mollycoddling star kids even when it’s clear as day that they can’t act.