It is a Wednesday and the big day has arrived. It is India versus New Zealand at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai that marks the start of the semi-finals of the ODI Cricket World Cup. There is a sense of excitement and nervousness in the air given that a billion hearts are at stake, all of whom have their eyes on the mouth-watering contest. Will we? Won’t we? We shall find out soon but as an Indian Cricket Fan, I won’t be able to take another heartbreak. But with some time in hands ahead of the big match, I could squeeze in the new Hindi film Apurva which is now streaming on Hotstar starring Tara Sutaria.
Tara Sutaria, by no means is regarded as one of the best actors atleast from whatever little we have seen from her previous films. If Student Of The Year 2 was anything to go by, she really needed to work on her acting chops including the dialogue delivery which wasn’t clear at all. In Ek Villain Returns, she seemed to be the weakest link amongst the cast that comprised of Arjun Kapoor, John Abraham and Disha Patani, and that meant that there was a long way to go as far as polishing her skills was concerned(and the lesser said about Marjaawaan the better). Come Apurva, I was pleasantly surprised by whatever little that I got to see of her from its trailer. Yes, the film did exude of an ‘NH10’ vibe but Tara definitely stood out with her range, something that made me look forward to watching the film. And finally, I did get my chance last night. So then does Apurva manage to impress, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
Apurva follows the story of a young woman who must outwit a group of dacoits by surviving through the night until helps arrives. Will she be able to turn the tables on them? The story here is very routine even for a survival thriller, something that we have already witnessed in films like NH10 apart from innumerous thrillers from Hollywood like Highway. And what was another weaklink was the screenplay standing at just 95 minutes that did unfold at the same wavelength right throughout the film without offering any thrills whatsoever. In fact, it was the taut length of the drama that came back to bite the film, given that absolutely no effort was made in the world building or characterization that didn’t quite make you feel anything for the protagonist.
The drama gets straight to the point with the introduction of the group of dacoits who are shown to be lethal by killing off a group of men after looting them. Here, I would like to say that even the killings were taken from a long shot that completely diluted the impact of the scene. Had the frame been on the face of the antagonists while they performed the act, the claustrophobia would have further added a layer of fear in the minds of the viewers. So the staging was a problem straight up! Now here was an opportunity to change the POV(point of view) of the drama by introducing the protagonist and giving a sense of virtue to her character, something that was so well done in NH10. This would have resulted in a payoff at the end, but sadly the world building or the characterization is just not there, an ingredient which I believe is the most important for a survival thriller.
The protagonist is randomly shown taking a journey in a bus before the bus is attacked by the same group of men, who soon kidnap her in order to satisfy their urges. A quick flashback does give a little background of her life outside the world but it isn’t enough to invest in her character. From that point onwards, the drama is just a cat and mouse game wherein the protagonist has to survive the onslaught of the dacoits in what is just another case of one-dimensional writing. There ought to have been fear builtup with the proceedings, deftly delaying the inevitable to build an element of fear in the minds of the viewers. But because the events are quick, the fast-paced thriller totally dilutes any amount of tension which was in store for the viewer.
I just want to get back to the point of the killings which I had made at the start of this segment. The killings ought to have been fun in a way for the viewers where the splashed blood would force you to hide your face or even look away, but with a cheeky smile on your face. But the staging of the murders is so haphazard that you don’t feel a thing, neither for the protagonist nor for her onslaught. I wonder why brutality as a virtue wasn’t used at all, something which would have raised the stakes in the drama. Also, because the drama was set virtually in the same location for most parts of its runtime, it was an automatic case of the drama being further diluted. The events leading up to the final act are decent but rushed, much like virtually the entire film wherein even a subplot didn’t quite add up to the main plot despite having a direct connection. Overall, the screenplay is terribly watered-down to have any sort of impact on the viewers.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are pretty routine whereas the reality was that it could have been further grounded to evoke an earthy taste to the proceedings. The music is decent but nothing memorable. Likewise, the BGM does nothing really to elevate the tension in the drama. The cinematography captures the dusty bylanes of Jhansi and Chambal quite well but falters during the ‘killing’ sequences. The editing is choppy and all over the place. Director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat had an opportunity to replicate the tried and tested tide of NH10 but sadly he misses the mark. The biggest flaw in the direction was that the level of brutality was diluted while not investing any time in the world building, something which would have delayed the inevitable while infusing fear in the minds of the viewers. The direction is quite bland here.
The performances are indeed the saving grace of the film to an extent that the actors make the film watchable. Aaditya Gupta as Chhota has his moments to shine. Sumit Gulati as Balli is first rate as well. Dhairya Karwa as Siddharth is hardly there and his character has no real significance in the screenplay. Rajpal Yadav as Jugnu is menacing with bouts of measured eccentricity in a wonderful act. Abhishek Banerjee as Sukkha is playful with bouts of violence associated with his character. And he does a good job as well. But it is Tara Sutaria as Apurva who is a revelation. I was finally able to spot some range in her as a performer, and it is clear that she has worked on her acting chops. The grit in her performance was definitely there and it reflected in her eyes and her body language wonderfully well. This is a good start and I hope she builds on this newfound momentum!
Apurva boasts of good performance which are wasted in a routine half-baked survival drama that doesn’t rise above the mediocrity with respect to its writing. Available on Hotstar.