Why on earth did the CBFC ban ‘Haraamkhor’ ? This question will continue to nag you throughout the film. Interestingly, the film was premiered in 15th annual New York Indian Film Festival, where Siddiqui received the Best Actor award for his performance. “Haraamkhor” was also presented the Silver Gateway of India trophy at the 17th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival in 2015.
The plot chronicles the relationship of a 14-year-old girl and her adult teacher. The wise folk at the CBFC dismissed this as being an “unacceptable” theme, but it is precisely this that makes ‘Haraamkhor’ so relevant.
In an unspecified Indian village, an unlikely love triangle ensues between a married school teacher Shyam (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), his 14-year old student Sandhya (Shweta Tripathi) and her tuition mate Kamal (Irfan Khan). What transpires in this twisted taboo relationship forms the story.
The film unfolds through the eyes of two prepubescent boys Kamal and his notorious friend Mintu. Kamal loves Sandhya and Mintu suggests bizarre ways to help Kamal woo the girl. The two rightly suspect that something’s brewing between Sandhya and Shyam and thus end up following the two everywhere. Meanwhile, completely unaware of the boys’ intentions, Sandhya, abandoned by her mother and concerned for her standoffish father, finds solace in Shyam. She overlooks his violent outbursts as her sexual involvement with him, clouds her judgement. Shyam on the contrary, is an opportunist, who manipulates the girl and even his wife for his selfish interests. However, he is not entirely at fault as the girl voluntarily leads him on.
Haraamkhor addresses a significant issue without taking sides and that’s commendable. Sadly, the righteous social awareness disclaimers that appear frequently during the ‘diluted controversial’ scenes, do not embody the film’s dark humour or audacious nature.
The jumpy narrative leaves a lot unanswered, making you feel indifferent towards the characters. It’s nice when a filmmaker leaves certain things to the audience’s interpretation but Shlok Sharma expects way too much from his unsuspecting viewer. It’s tiresome to fill in the blanks after a while. Those who have seen the film at a festival claim that a few scenes have been cut and what you get is a water-down version. Whatever the reason, they seem disconnected and that puts you off.
What shines in this otherwise bold but ambiguous film are the performances and Mukesh Chhabra’s impeccable casting, especially when it comes to the young boys. Shweta Tripathi stuns you as a 31-year-old, playing a 14 something with her understated portrayal. Nawazuddin Siddiqui once again proves why he is considered to be one of the finest actors of today. He is effortlessly flawless and evokes diverse emotions like anger, disdain and laughter with an easy nonchalance.
Haraamkhor shows a lot of promise but ends up being way too vague to be hard-hitting.