Director Sudhir Mishra’s new film, written by Manoj Tyagi, is the story of a woman who rises through the ranks of an advertising agency by virtue of her quick wit, hurried creativity and plenty of acumen for opportunism. In real life that might not always be enough to cement a career, but in this film, the advertising industry in which it is set is a playground only for hedonistic loonies.
CEOs and copywriters stumble upon the big ideas epiphanously—smack in the middle of a bitter verbal duel between employer and employee, for example, or inside hotel rooms, under dim lights. Basically, they are always having a good time, and working at the same time. Anybody’s fantasy.
The woman, Maya (Chitrangda Singh), rises to “national creative director” and the board of directors after having left Mumbai, where she began her career with Rahul (Arjun Rampal), a venerated ad guru, after their ugly break-up. Once she is his professional equal, Maya irritates Rahul. He tortures her out of jealousy, and Maya files a sexual harassment case against him.
Who wins, and how? Mishra and his writer have a peculiar answer to this question, an answer that derails the very purpose of the film.
It’s a story with promise. The workplace, and the arduous and uneasy demands of professional life, have immediate resonance in the globalized world. What happens when a colleague of many years turns into an opponent in a legal battle? What are the gender dynamics in a space seemingly free of sexual repression? How vulnerable is the male ego? The point of view is largely in favour of the woman, up to a point. Towards the climax, both Rahul and Maya turn false and banal.
Mishra uses flashback to tell the story from the point when the head of a committee probing both sides of the case, played by Deepti Naval, begins interrogating Maya, Rahul and their colleagues. A lot is said, not shown, and two different points of view of the same incidents are narrated. It’s a boring and uninspired structure, where every point of view has a literal rendering. Unlike Mishra’s earlier films, such as Is Raat ki Subah Nahin (1996) and Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003), where sharp dramatic tools made realism eloquent, Inkaar relies on clichés.
Rampal and Singh are capable in the lead roles, but ultimately the ludicrous turns of the story and its treatment overwhelm the good.
Inkaar releases in theatres on Friday.