Of familiar men, Salman Khan iconography and reality: Dibakar Banerjee on ‘Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar’
NEW DELHI: Peopled by patriarchs, potential rapists and a ‘few good men’, all the males in his new film Sandeep and Pinky Faraar are stuck somewhere, also harmed by toxic masculinity and class divides, says director Dibakar Banerjee.
‘Sandeep and Pinky Faraar’, where Parineeti Chopra plays Sandeep, a bank executive, and Arjun Kapoor is Pinky, a suspended cop, takes off from the usual road thriller to veer into different paths.
Apart from the gender flip on the names, the film also delves into the themes of masculinity and patriarchy through its story of two runaways, belonging to different classes, and the people they encounter on the way.
Banerjee said he wanted “Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar” to be watched by entire families.
“I wanted the film to be viewed by some kind of Indian family, probably not the kind of family as depicted in ‘Khosla Ka Ghosla’. But watched together by family, friends or whatever you call family,” Banerjee, known for directing films like “Khosla Ka Ghosla”, “Love Sex Aur Dhokha” and “Shanghai”, he said in an interview.
In the film, set in National Capital Region and in the hills of Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand, Sandeep and Pinky are marked for a kill but they escape together as being alone would make them vulnerable.
“We tried to make a film that has a life which tells you that what happens to them can happen to you,” Banerjee said.
The film opens with a group of drunk men driving a car at night in Delhi-NCR ‘discussing’ women.
They overtake Pinky and Sandeep on the highway and that’s where the story begins Co-written by Banerjee and Varun Grover, the movie, which started streaming on Amazon Prime Video last week, is being appreciated by both audience and critics.
It has been a tumultuous journey.
“Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar” was shot in 2017 and was slated to open in theatres last March but the pandemic-induced lockdown forced the makers to postpone the release.
The movie finally released in theatres on March 19, 2021 in the middle of the second wave of the pandemic.
According to Banerjee, patriarchy has harmed both women and men.
“The more you try to restrain someone, the opposite effect of it falls on you. So all the men in the film are stuck somewhere. If you say patriarchy has harmed women, it’s not that. It has also harmed men and now we have started understanding that. The film also stars ‘the haay (curse) of an emasculated man’,” Banerjee said.
But the world of “Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar” is also populated with ‘a few good men’ who are an exception to the rule of toxic masculinity.
Be it Uncle ji, played by Raghuvir Yadav, the small-town patriarch who starts speaking in English in the presence of city dwellers, or the bank manager (Sukant Goel), a gentleman by day and potential rapist by the night, the film attempts to depict a spectrum of men in society.
Then there is the burly, soft-hearted Satender Dahiya aka Pinky, who is a suspended Haryana cop, Munna (Rahul Kumar), the suicidal son of a hotel owner who develops a brotherly bond with Pinky over their love for a superstar, and Arshad (Abhishek Yadav), Sandeep’s bank associate and her quiet supporter.
“No one is a victim, that’s how life is. Everyone is an adult, they must grow up. If you have the licence to drink alcohol and a voter ID, that means you are a grown-up. So men must also act and behave like adults,” Banerjee said.
The movie is also an insight into the fandom of Bollywood star Salman Khan, something the filmmaker said he finds fascinating.
This plays an important role in the narrative with Kapoor’s Pinky bonding over it with the suicidal hotel owner’s son.
“Due to some reason there is a huge percentage of people in north India who really identify with something that the Salman Khan iconography identifies with,” he said, adding it was more than just hero worship.
“There is something deeply subaltern in it and there are deeper cultural strains to it. But you get to know a lot from this — how we, men, think; what’s our thought process; how we hide from ourselves; how we cheat ourselves” As they come from different worlds, it is only natural for Sandeep and Pinky to make different life choices at the end of the film, Banerjee said.
“It’s exactly what two people in India who are like Sandy and Pinky would do, which means they are like us. They aren’t special. We can’t put them into a special behaviour and be somnolent in our behaviour, that these are heroes, this happens in films and our life is the real life,” the director said.
The film also stars Neena Gupta as a gullible housewife who invites the runaway couple to her house and Jaideep Ahlawat as Pinky’s mentor-turned-enemy.
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