Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hunterrr: Review

Mandar Ponkshe (Gulshan Devaiah) is a hunter. He’s a ladies’ man, a player, tharki, vasu and some other words, the censors don’t want your baby ears to hear (they're there in the trailer). He’s isn’t very smart and he definitely isn’t smooth. He isn’t rich; it’s not clear if he works at all. What makes him such a successful Lothario? For one, he’s always available. And he isn’t picky. All comers are welcome: young and middle-aged, dark and fair, naïve and experienced.

There’s a less flattering term than player, and that’s sex addict. This is what Mandar really is. Over the course of the film, he has affairs with at least two married women, hits on a guest of the family, and has sex with an old flame even after he’s gotten engaged. His friends have moved on, started families, have children. He has continued to hunt, offering drinks to young girls in bars and getting beaten up for his trouble. For a while, it’s not clear why we’re watching a film about such an uninspiring character.

Luckily (and unusually for a Hindi film), Hunterrr finds some footing in the second half. First off, there’s a lot more screen time for Radhika Apte, who can lift the spirits of just about anything she’s in. Here, she plays Trupti,one of the girls Mandar’s meeting for a possible arranged marriage. Mandar, who had tried to tell some of the women he met earlier about his womanizing ways, decides to keep silent this time. She, however, has a past of her own, and (again, unusually for a Hindi film) isn’t shy about discussing it. A couple of tears, drinks and lying flashbacks later, we’re left with a strange question: Would you knowingly marry a sex addict?

Hunterrr does try something that hasn’t been attempted before in Hindi movies: Charting the development of the Indian male child as a journey of perpetual horniness. The film skips back and forth between three main time frames. We see Mandar as a child, at a time when he’s discovering masturbation and learning how to talk to girls; then as a callow college kid on the make; and in the present day, being forced by his family to consider marriage. All this unfolds very leisurely; Hunterrr has the right comic material but lacks the timing that would make the movie sing.

Hunterrr is the directorial debut of Harshavardhan Kulkarni, who had previously written the screenplay for Hasee Toh Phasee (2014), another mainstream comedy partly subverted by the oddness of its outlier lead character. It is fitfully interesting: The flashback with the children has shades of Amarcord, and the discussions Mandar and Trupti have in the latter stages are funny and provocative. That said, there are also a lot of moments that will make women—and some men—in the audience wince: the line the schoolboys form outside the girls’ school, forcing them to exit via a narrow, leering passage; the hoary old idea that an exposed bra strap is titillating.

For a very male-focused film, there’s a measure of equality in the fact that many of the women in Mandar’s life know exactly what they want, even if it’s just no-strings-attached fun. Mandar, on the other hand, is clueless at the start, and just a little wiser at the end (the usually arresting Devaiah embraces his character’s confusion and mumbly sleaziness, but still ends up bland). He may be a slave to his impulses, but any hunter will tell you that it gets lonely out there in the jungle. It’s the same old cliché you get in every movie about a womanizer, from Shame (2011) to Don Jon (2013)—deep down, even sex addicts need love.

No comments: