At a time when the film industry is busy showcasing cops as romanticised idealistic super-heroes, "Bardaasht" takes a cynical view of the police force.But the film portrays the reality. Every day law abiding god-fearing citizen gets a taste of the criminalisation of the police force.
Doing away with the wispy whitewashing of the khaki uniform, director E.Niwas, in his third film on cops and robbers after "Shool" and "Dum", portrays the grim and gritty reality of the uneasy and often ruinous relationship between ordinary citizens and law enforcers. Filmmaker Vikram Bhatt turns screenwriter to deliver what is ironically his only original and, by far, most the riveting story ever. Bobby Deol, who plays the lead role, drops his habitually languorous look and laidback demeanour to deliver a performance of substantial velocity. Deol makes the best of his silently simmering and suffering army man-turned-civilian role. As Aditya Shrivastava, Bobby is what his brother Sunny has repeatedly played in films like "Arjun" and "Ghayal". But Bobby gives the seething role his own spin.
Unlike other tales of the civilian and the law, here Bobby doesn't flex his muscles until the astonishingly blotchy climax when, inexplicably, the director sets out to give his hero some brawn.
Most of the time, Bobby's character is restrained and single-minded in his devotion towards his wayward sibling Anuj, played by Ritesh Deshmukh.The frantic desperation of a possessive guardian-figure comes across in little gestures that convey the power of an implosive performance.
The first part of the film, Bollywood's first working-class thriller in ages, builds the protagonist's idealistic character through his aborted tryst with the army and his girlfriend Payal, played by Lara Dutta. When Anuj disappears, "Bardaasht" becomes a kind of Citizen Kane on wheels, with big brother devoting his life to solving his beloved sibling's murder mystery.
Director Niwas always keeps his narration simple. The camera, manned by Rakesh Manikantan, is as restrained in its movements as the protagonist, so that the audience gets ample leeway to absorb the narrative details. One wishes the director, valiant in his vision of life on the grim side,
had shown the courage to do away with the songs. Amar Mohile's background music is inconsistent, at times effectively muted but at other times overdone. The sequence at the police station where Aditya tries to report his missing brother as the entire staff stays riveted to a cricket match, is an instant replay of all the films about social injustice since Mahesh Bhatt's "Saraansh", and yet moving because bureaucratic apathy, so effectively touched upon in Niwas' earlier film Dum", cannot get outmoded.The distraught brother's quest for justice is coloured in the second half by reducing the wrongdoers to a trio of conniving villains, one of them played by Rahul Dev.
To pin the blame on a small group of uniformed louts for the rot that has set into our system is nave indeed. Nonetheless, the scene at the morgue with a callous attendant ridiculing Aditya's grief is powerful. Niwas restricts the thematic conflict to brotherly bonding. The absence of stereotypical humbug - buffoon cop and item song - gives the film a focussed and serious look.
The film's single-minded purpose collapses completely in the last half hour when Bobby is made to do a Sunny Deol. The climax brings the narration crashing down and exposes the director's failure to stay within the working class ambit he builds on. On the plus side, romance is sensibly knit into the plot by making Lara Dutta a part of the main conflict. As a lawyer Lara delivers her lines with conviction.One wishes there was more of her. Rahul Dev is a terrifying adversary, though not half as menacing as the evil co