The first impression one gets while watching Aparnaa Singh’s Irada (meaning ‘Intention’) is that it’s a much neglected and sadly unwanted younger sibling of the much touted but equally insipid Udta Punjab (Abhishek Chaubey, 2016). One encounters the same futile sense of self-righteousness in the overall attitude of the film which is largely “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. Honestly, naming the film ‘Irada’ doesn’t really count for anything; after all, even the road to hell is paved with good intentions!
The film strives to take on the less talked about issue of environmental terrorism and deals with a chemical plant in Punjab whose illegal and harmful methods of toxic waste disposal has resulted in an alarming growth of cancer fatalities in the belt. The owner of the plant is the evil Paddy Sharma (Sharad Kelkar) who runs his business largely by keeping the authorities in his pockets including the power hungry Chief Minister Ramandeep Braitch (Divya Dutta). When young Riya (Rumana Molla) is diagnosed with cancer and finally succumbs to it, her father, a decorated ex-service man called Parabjeet Walia (Naseeruddin Shah) holds Sharma and his corporation responsible and vows revenge. Meanwhile, a young journalist named Maya (Sagarika Ghatge) is out to expose the nexus between Sharma and Braitch and also to avenge the death of her activist fiancé at their hands. And like the final piece of the puzzle, there arrives the NIA investigator Arjun Mishra (Arshad Warsi) who won’t stop till uncovering the truth despite his own quirkiness or the pressure from the Chief Minister’s Office to end his queries and doctor his reports.
— kaahon (@kaahonwall) February 2, 2017
While the aforementioned storyline might make some sense in black and white, the inept screen writing and direction turn the whole affair on its own head resulting in a confused, stagnant and dreary assembly of subplots which never quite manages to become a coherent narrative flow. The film keeps swaying between genres, themes and moods rambling between the social realism of I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, 2016) or the gritty thrills of Traffic (Steve Soderbergh, 2000) or just banal attempts at humour which one finds nowadays in the Anurag Kashyap imitations! All one is left with are a set of half-baked characters which are like caricatures of the actual selves, be it the shattered father of Naseeruddin Shah who broods and recites Urdu poetry and drinks whiskey or the evil queen like Divya Dutta making faces in front of a mirror that clearly belongs to the Disney’s production of Snow White! And working with such one-dimensional characters and interweaved convoluted sub-plots, the screenplay gets extremely verbose, spelling out plans, motives, intrigue and explaining every other plot development.
There is hardly any point discussing any technical, aesthetic or political aspect of such an inane excuse for cinema. The fact that the film goes out of the way to name the antagonist ‘Ramandeep Braitch’ just so that she can be insulted by removing a few letters from her name plaque to spell ‘Randee Bitch’, is a clear indication of the film’s priorities and irada. The film has a chance to go down in history for two reasons. One is the possibly longest disclaimer ever seen at the beginning where words like fiction, fictional and fictitious keep appearing and it apologises beforehand in case it offends any individual or organization or anything under the sky. If the makers are so apprehensive about offending, they are clearly in the wrong business! And finally, the film witnesses one of the dullest, saddest and half-heartedly boring performances delivered by Naseeruddin Shah as he hams his way through every look, every movement, every pause between words which only say only one thing; it’s all ‘been there and done that’.
Arup Ratan Samajdar