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Tale it like it is, in rural India

Tale it like it is, in rural India

Despite the gaps, ‘Lantrani’ is cerebral and refreshing.

Film: ZEE5 Lantrani

Director: Kaushik Ganguly, Gurvinder Singh and Bhaskar Hazarika

Cast: Johnny Lever, Jitendra Kumar, Nimisha Sajayan, Jisshu Sengupta and Boloram Das

Parbina Rashid

Had I not witnessed many a scene playing out in small towns in Punjab where a convict, secured by a rope, is being taken to attend court hearings in public transport, I would have brushed aside the opening scenes of ‘Hud Hud Dabangg’ as a ploy to justify the title of the anthology, ‘Lantrani’, which roughly translates to ‘tall tales’.

‘Lantrani’ is a collaboration of three National Award-winning filmmakers — Kaushik Ganguly, Gurvinder Singh and Bhaskar Hazarika — and their independent films ‘Hud Hud Dabang’, ‘Dharna Mana Hai’, and ‘Sanitized Samachar’, respectively. Each film is set in rural India and captures the issues that ail the nation.

In ‘Hud Hud Dabangg’, Johnny Lever plays a cop who, on the last day of his service life, is entrusted with the responsibility of taking Jisshu Sengupta’s character to the court for a hearing. A deskie at the police station, he gets a loaded gun for the first time, a Bullet bike and a rope for his mission. When he asks for a handcuff instead, his superior says, “That happens only in films.” A familiar scene; even his demeanour, for that matter. Not all cops match Rohit Shetty’s Singham or Simmba or Sooryavanshi’s fitness level!

Right from the characterisation of this goofy cop, who is more hassled about riding the Bullet than handling the criminal, to the lawyers and a judge, who think nothing of hurling abuses at the undertrial for his choice of sexuality, to the rural landscapes and shabby buildings, director Ganguly keeps it real. Johnny Lever, the quintessential funny man of Hindi cinema, is a delight to watch.

A short story’s strength lies in its ability to turn the narrative at its head and veer it to an unexpected climax, which ‘Hud Hud Dabangg’ fulfils. It stays true to the traditional style of storytelling with a message delivered as conclusion: ‘Even after annulment of Article 377, the LGBTQ community is battling prejudice.’

The second segment belongs to Gurvinder Singh’s ‘Dharna Mana Hai’, who gives the traditional style of storytelling a miss. It has Malayalam actress Nimisha Sajayan as Gomti Devi, a Scheduled Caste woman, and Jitendra Kumar, who plays her husband. Gomti Devi is the sarpanch of Lakshmipura, who doesn’t have any real power. And to fight for her rights, she, along with her husband, decides to sit on a silent protest outside the DDO’s office. As office politics to caste politics play out on the periphery, the duo stays resolute in the protest. With its disjointed narrative style, the film has the tone of a stage play and both actors excel in their roles without uttering a single dialogue. Bhojpuri actor Sanjay Mahanand as the assistant to the indifferent bureaucrat is spot-on.

Director Bhaskar Hazarika’s ‘Sanitized Samachar’, the last story of the anthology, is hilarious. A local news channel struggles to survive the coronavirus pandemic. With no money coming in to pay the rent or salaries, its star anchor quarantined after testing positive for the virus, a hyper-active reporter reporting non-existent news and a wheelchair-bound editor (played by Boloram Das) moonlighting as a namkeen packer, things can’t go any worse. So, when a sponsor approaches them with a product called Covinaash, a hand sanitiser that claims to protect against the virus like no other sanitiser, they grab the opportunity. Hazarika’s story takes a dig at the manipulation and rampant commercialisation that take place in media houses, but ends on a note which is quite baffling.

Despite the gaps, with powerful performances, a dose of entertainment, nuanced cinematography by Sandeep Yadav, Riju Das and Appu Prabhakar and thought-provoking themes, ‘Lantrani’ is cerebral and refreshing.