Film: Disney+Hotstar: Apurva
Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat
Cast: Tara Sutaria, Rajpal Yadav, Abhishek Banerjee, Dhairya Karwa and Sumit Gulati
Here’s a revelation. Tara Sutaria can act! Well enough to carry a 95-minute survival saga on her petite shoulders. As and in ‘Apurva’, she manages to take us along with her as she outsmarts her captors and clubs them to death one by one, all four of them, looking stunning all the while, even in her de-glam version. She is the beauty with a killer’s instinct!
Now, let’s come to the pack of beasts one would love to loathe. They have names — Jugnu (Rajpal Yadav), Sukha (Abhishek Banerjee), Balli (Sumit Gulati) and Chhota (Aaditya Gupta). They kill whoever crosses their path. These Chambal brigands are trigger-happy and sadistic to the hilt.
Apurva’s ordeal starts when the driver of a passenger bus, which Apruva boards to surprise her fiancé Siddharth (Dhairya Karwa) in Agra on his birthday, doesn’t let Jugnu overtake. He shoots the driver. Sukha and the rest take a fancy for Apurva and kidnap her.
What follows is a cat-and-mouse chase between Apurva and her captors in a deserted village. The storyline may come as a tad predictable, but writer-director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat has chosen his setting wisely. The almost bare terrain with dilapidated houses, deep wells and darkness punctured by torchlights adds to the fear factor. As Apurva runs for her life, the narrative presents several gripping and tense moments.
There are flashbacks off and on. We get to witness Apurva’s first meeting with her future husband and subsequently her engagement. She is a modest girl, who goes along with her parents’ choice of a groom, falls in love with her fiancé, refuses physical intimacy before marriage and so on. These flashbacks not only build the character of our protagonist (we barely get to know her fiancé though), but also give the much needed respite from the violence. Gore is kept away from the camera most of the time. So, though she goes on clubbing one goon after another and chops one’s genitals, mercifully, we are spared the graphic details. Otherwise, so many killings in a single night would have been too much to take in, even if it is done by a damsel in distress whose transition from sweet to revengeful is complete by the time night falls.
Apurva’s feminine power is in total contrast with the misogyny of the gang she is trying to outsmart. Sukha, who is obsessed with her, suggests a ‘peeing contest’ to decide who would have the first go at her. And when she passes out after taking a blow from one of the hot heads, he loses interest in raping her because ‘an unconscious body does not scream’. For him, screams for help act like an aphrodisiac. Too gross, too vulgar, too card-boardish! And sadly, that’s where their characterisation ends. The script does not spend much on developing these characters — like what makes them what they are.
Talking of a lazy approach, the police, as in innumerable Hindi films, is shown as the reluctant party in this survival drama, who would not take a chance with their obsolete rifles with a gang armed with Mausers and automatic guns.
Tara Sutaria, Rajpal Yadav and Abhishek Banerjee’s captivating performances and Anshuman Mahaley’s superb cinematography of both the barren village and chase sequences are the plus points. A few more twists and turns would have been welcome as that would have negated the predictability factor.