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Kadak Singh review: Pankaj Tripathi’s quirks uplift this real and relatable thriller

Kadak Singh review: Pankaj Tripathi is immensely watchable in Anirudh Roy Chaudhary's new thriller.

Kadak Singh isn’t the story of a strict father who is harsh on his children and in turn, gets this name from them. Neither it is the story of a moralistic officer who is declared corrupt and is now trying to clear his name. It’s a human story and a thriller of how people in power use you for their vested interests and if need be, fabricate stories to frame you, trap you or even push you to take your life. Directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury (who has earlier helmed Pink and Lost, besides Bengali films), Kadak Singh is real, relatable and doesn’t make you feel you’re transported to a fictional world where characters seem made up just to prove a point.

The story begins with AK Shrivastav aka Kadak Singh (Pankaj Tripathi), an officer with the Department of Financial Crimes who is hospitalised after being diagnosed with retrograde amnesia. While he can’t seem to remember anything about what happened to him, and how he landed here, his daughter Sakshi (Sanjana Sanghi), girlfriend Naina (Jaya Ahsan), colleague Arjun (Paresh Pahuja) and boss Tyagi (Dilip Shankar) take turns to tell him their respective stories of who he is and what place they hold in his life. Not sure who to believe, AK continues to listen to these stories and trying to solve a chit-fund scam. Meanwhile, the head nurse (Parvathy Thiruvothu) stays as his support system as AK is tries to recollect and rejoin the scattered dots from his past. Will he recover all his memories and unearth the corrupt realities of the department? Or will he start life afresh, and make new memories?

The story co-written by Viraf Sarkari, Ritesh Shah and Chowdhury moves back and forth almost throughout the film. There are a series of flashbacks that come and go each time a new character narrates their perspective to AK. At 127 minutes, the film is crisp and doesn’t seem dragged. The non-linear storytelling does appear to disrupt the narrative at times, but that’s where the film tries to immerse you and not let you look elsewhere.

I like how Chowdhary has peppered some light moments to uplift the mood, especially when Tripathi and the head nurse are harmlessly flirting and exchanging glances, and it looks so organic. There are several scenes that have a lot of depth in both writing and the way they’ve been shot. For instance, the emotionally charged portions between Tripathi and Sanghi are the highlight of the film — the ones where Sakshi questions her father, ‘Why did you marry our mom?’ or when she says, ‘Hamari maa hi nahi, baap bhi nahi hai.’ Bollywood has churned out enough films showcasing a strict turned scarred relationship between a father and his children. Kadak Singh makes an effort to start a conversation by delving into the how and why of such relationships.

In a scene where Sakshi bumps into her father with another woman a shady hotel is not only a well-written scene but also extensively explained as the film moves forward. And the argument that follows between the two is one of the best scenes in the film. These nuances in the character arcs and writing is what makes Kadak Singh a compelling watch. In another scene, Sakshi having a heart-to-heart with her father’s girlfriend Naina, sitting on the hospital bench, makes you sit back and laud the writing. There are lesser words, more silences and so much said in that.

Tripathi once again proves that he is like clay in the hands of his director. As Kadak Singh, he barely smiles in the film, but there are portions where you see him smirk and grin, and with several quirks that he brings to his character, he makes the whole film worth a watch. I could sense a clear attempt on Tripathi’s part to break free from his earlier portrayals. AK Shrivastav is neither ruthless like Mirzapur’s Kaleen Bhaiya nor he’s the funny pandit ji from Fukrey. He’s somewhere in between, and that works in his favour.

Sanghi as his daughter brings a myriad of emotions on screen, and though she needs to get better at her dialogue delivery, she holds her ground with a lot of finesse. The scenes between Tripathi and Sanghi in the hospital when she’s helping him with basic chores, are endearing.

As Tripathi’s girlfriend, Bangladeshi actor Jaya is such a revelation and a delight to watch. At no point she looks smitten or swayed, instead, she brings the much needed balance in the narrative. When Naina begins her story and the story moves into a flashback, for the initial few minutes, all we hear is soulful music, no words and it’s only through their gestures, expressions and actions that the film wants us to understand how deeply they bonded. Shantanu Moitra’s music serves as an icing on the cake. Watch out for the scene where Tripathi and Ahsan are lying on the bed after an intimate moment and discussing ‘politically incorrect sex’ - so beautiful and aesthetically shot.

Amid other things, Kadak Singh very subtly underlines the prevalent issues of mental health and suicidal tendencies among people these days. I like that Chowdhary didn’t overplay that aspect but kept it to an extent that the subject gets noticed and talked about.

Kadak Singh is a feel-good film that stays as raw and real as possible without creating needless drama around everything. It makes you cry, laugh and think about things that we often neglect in life.

Kadak Singh is now streaming on Zee5.
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