4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)
Language : Hindi
Year : 2015
Director : Harshvardhan Kulkarni
For a Hindi film, it is an act of great imagination and daring to portray in detail the life of a prurient gentleman who regularly switches sexual playmates without ever settling down ( we can discuss another time about female counterparts having similar tendencies). Note that we aren't talking about dealings with prostitutes, but about encounters with other women. Many of you would have come across these type of male specimens , who've been with a memorable cross-section of the female tribe without ever getting married. People get married because it provides constant companionship, not just the sexual kind but also the platonic one, and the benefit of a familiar and putatively dear companion to be with in old age. And one more reason - the obligations of providing offspring with the support of two parents who remain under a single roof. But certain men disregard these rules and stay bachelors... Leaving aside gays and saints for the purposes of this discussion (not that I am against gay marriage), what actually do these men feel as life progresses ? What actually are the sentiments that populate their mind (apart from serial sexual joy) as their flit and flirt from one partner to another without entering into a long-term commitment? Do they regret their choices for not opting for a constant companion earlier, or do they stick to their guns and insist on not being yoked to another person, nevermind the prospects of there being no wifely presence in old age? Hunterrr may be labelled as an "adult comedy" but it is in equal parts a socially incisive drama , and it looks at its "hunter" from his boyhood to his youth. It is admittedly not the full arc , and therein lies one major valency in the scope and vision of this script, but the ground the movie covers, and the way writer-director Harshavardhan Kulkarni negotiates it, impressed me very much. This is a one-of-a-kind Hindi film that gazes at a slice of middle-class India which is delicious, bitter, complex and illuminating all at once.
Mandar Ponkshe - the young man at the center of this film - is a player - a man whose main occupation in life is getting comely women into bed with him. Now that I think about it , I can't recall what Mandar's "job" was , the man just seems fully geared and focussed on finding suitable ladies to slake his lust. At the start of the pic, he explains to pals that a good bowel movement at the start of the day sets up swimmingly good prospects later, and just as one can never actually tire of this crucial everyday activity, so is the essentiality and boredom-proof prospect of sexual intercourse for him. He goes to the airport to receive someone but ends up spotting a potential mate sitting inside the airport in the lounge and he somehow manages get past the security and next to his target. Mandar sits on a terrace shooting the breeze , and as it starts to rain he catches sight of a voluptuous woman in a sari on the next terrace and that is enough for him to weather a downpour and get drenched (both physically and metaphorically) as he continues to take in the view. Next to his hostel, he sees two young women and he selects not the conventionally good-looking one, but the more carnal of the two - he thus "smells" out his target and them homes in shamelessly at the risk of getting hit and shouted at. No wonder the pic labels him a "hunter" - just as a tiger in the jungles or a lion in the savannah craftily picks out the the most suitable prey.
He even targets married women, audience empathy be damned. Now that's the kind of shenanigans which can even get the offender killed without meriting much sympathy, but I suppose 'hunterrrs' like Mandar risk life, limb and all propriety in trying to humour their monkey.
Mandar is embodied with atypical, slowly manifesting finesse and in an ultimately perfect way by Gulshan Devaiah. Mandar is a name unique to Maharashtra just as the actor's real-life surname is Devaiah - a name specific to Kodavas and Karnataka. Gulshan's physical personality is fine-tuned here to that of a slim even spindly young man of above average height and reasonably fair complexion. His longish face can be rather handsome - and simultaneously boyish and manly. The eye colour is lighter and the face set with frameless spectacles. He would be an excellent choice if Sidney Seldon's iconic novel 'Stranger in the Mirror' were to be remade with an Indian Toby Temple. Rather than being a swaggering stud (compare and contrast with Devaiah's character from the same production company's "Shaitan") Gulshan's Mandar comes across here as unassuming. His seductive, bold attitude only emerges when he inveigles himself into intimate company. Rather than giving him a two-dimensional standard-issue Casanova personality, Devaiah and director Kulkarni make Mandar - and I'll only give a few adjectives here - complex , likeable, innocent , irresponsible, sheepish, rascal-like, vulnerable, sly and poignant. It is one of the unique performances in Indian cinema.
That class act is beautifully paired with the natural unadorned charm and cutting honesty of Radhika Apte's Tripti - a woman who rivets Mandar (note the similarities to other Kashyap-linked movies - Radhika's face is similar to that of Dev D's Mahie Gill, and Hunterrr's promotion poster is similar to Shaitan's in its psychedelic geometry). Tripti and Mandar's delightful 'chick-spotting' adventures in a shopping center make for an absolute hoot. As we study both their personalites, we can very likely come to the conclusion that they might actually make it as a stable and loving couple who know each other's complex selves very well.
Couple this with the fact that the film's 2 hour 20 minute runtime is smartly eased by a shifting structure which shuffles different incidents, childhood and adulthood, past and present .The picture is also shameless about hood-winking you with "false" sequences and then showing you what actually transpired.
You note that the script, direction and acting are all good but why do the songs not measure up? (the background score is no great shakes either). The main player here in the production team is Anurag Kashayp and though he has had resounding success with unique music in Gangs of Wasseypur and Dev D , he has also failed very often in ensuring good music in his films - I'm still not sure whether it is his mercurial taste in music or just plain complacency. "Hunterrr" would have been an even more wonderful animal had it been able to sing better.
Somewhere in the middle while watching this audacious enterprise, I was thinking that this Indian film will find it very difficult to portray nudity , what with a pseudo-conservative audience and a criminally prudish Censor board. But in a matter of minutes , without showing any exposed private parts , the film blew me away with a scene of great sex appeal that occurs in a kitchen of all places. And I laughed heartily at a scene involving apple-flavoured condoms in a Pune mall. 'Hunterrr' also surprises you in non-physical ways , with side-tracks of "blind" love, atavistic quirks and Mandar's friends boldly choosing unlikely life-partners. I did not like the ending , I might even call it a cop-out but such deficiences in ambition are hedged considerably by the film's various triumphs. This Hunterrr can even do math profitably - made at Rs.4.5 crore ,it has netted more than Rs.12 crore. The Indian public thus shows that it does reward well-presented sex in mainstream cinema.
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