Saand Ki Aankh review – women take aim at Indian convention | Film

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This would-be Hindi crowdpleaser (title translation: Bullseye) drew fire over on home turf when it was announced that its subjects Chandro and Prakashi Tomar – real-life sisters-in-law who took up a successful competitive shooting career in their 60s – would be played by the considerably younger pairing of 32-year-old Taapsee Pannu and 30-year-old Bhumi Pednekar.

The resulting film however – easily the sunniest, least challenging feature to which maverick producer Anurag Kashyap has yet put his name – seems unlikely to generate further outrage. In a movie aiming for a mild form of social commentary, it makes sense to position two versatile performers as greying, latex-wrinkled fixed points as the world changes around them.

The real issue is predictability: as can happen in biopics, every scene, emotional beat and plot progression feels entirely preordained. Writer Balwinder Singh Janjua and director Tushar Hiranandani know exactly the pushover crowd they’re targeting and shoot directly for them, rarely if ever disrupting the air of hand-me-down history.

‘A bond you can cheer for’ … Pednekar, left, and Pannu.

‘A bond you can cheer for’ … Pednekar, left, and Pannu. Photograph: Reliance Entertainment

The Tomars start out veiled on the sidelines, attending to their husbands’ washing and a growing army of children; it takes an unmarried doctor with a self-built rifle range (Vineet Kumar Singh, from Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz) to spring them from drudgery and coax out their talents – chief among them an all-conquering, focussed calmness cultivated over many decades in a chaotic household.

Thereafter, with directorial newcomer Hiranandani failing to find much in the way of dramatic shape or rhythm, we’re offered one montage after another – albeit montages that boast the novelty of seeing women with silver-flecked hair being put through their paces; these alternate with competition sequences that go much the way you expect. Pannu and Pednekar fashion a bond you can easily cheer for, all sly sisterly looks that cut through long stretches of indifferent writing, and some attractive location work gives it the bare minimum of sweep.

Still, this feels like a waste of rich narrative possibilities, as mechanically feelgood as those two dozen Britflicks that have cast Dames Dench, Smith et al as old dears who shoot from the lip.

Watch a trailer for Saand Ki Aankh (English subtitles)

Source: The Guardian
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