Thar film review: Anil Kapoor surpasses his protagonist son in a half-baked western

A mysterious, dirty-looking young man walks into a small town scorched by the sun and covered in a thick layer of dust. He attracts all eyes in town: the docile wives of absent husbands and also the wise old sheriff who tracks down a murderer on the prowl. Director Raj Singh Chaudhary does his best to bring all the usual tropes of a Hollywood Western to Thar: the early plot and character setup, the sloping-roofed houses that are more 1930s Texas than in Rajasthan, the saloon-style dhaba that is only missing a spittoon at the door, feared dacoits, their horses and even police chases through wild and arid lands. A simple homage is also paid to perhaps the greatest desi western ever made, Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay. Read also : Anil Kapoor says his son Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor is the star of Thar: ‘Hum to ease hi supporting actor hain’

Unfortunately, Thar’s western aspirations dwindle quite dramatically halfway through as he enters a completely different genre of torture porn. There isn’t much left to salvage after that. The western theme of revenge is always central to the film. However, the processing of this one seems so lazy in the end, that I can’t really applaud it for sticking with it. A woman is thrust deep into the fridge just when you thought you’d witnessed a different-than-usual female character, and the final reveal is literally handed to the viewer in one of the laziest writings in a long time. But the trip to the lazy end wasn’t pleasant either. The middle of Thar is filled with such long scenes of torture and gore that you almost expect a ventriloquist clown doll to come rolling down the hall on a tricycle. Things take a gruesome and unassailable turn with the flashback scene at the very end. Horrifying sound effects are introduced to add to the ‘impact’ of the torture and none of it leaves you for long. And not at all in a good way.

Despite the funless gore, Thar is mostly watchable for the mood it creates and the performances of its main cast. The movie’s mysterious new man in town is played by Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor, who’s never really been a disappointment, but his KRA this time is 90% brooding away and 10% angry reactions. He gets a 100% review from me for delivering what little he was asked to do well. The best-written roles went to Anil Kapoor and Fatima Sana Shaikh, from the self-proclaimed “supporting cast.” Anil Kapoor easily sells the wise but beaten inspector, eager for promotion and adventure in his usually quiet and peaceful town. It commands respect from the townspeople and also from you, watching it on your Netflix app. Neither overplaying nor underplaying any moment, Anil shows how matured he has been to skillfully manage the pace of his performance over the years. He knows when it’s enough just to have tears in his eyes and stare at the ceiling and your future, stuck in the rut of an uneventful life. He also knows how to sell convincingly that he loved his trusty constable’s lal maas recipe. Anil deserves even more love than we give him. Fatima Sana Shaikh doesn’t quite look like the village belle of Rajasthan, but does well as a shy wife who knows how to seize an opportunity. She has more room than Harsh Varrdhan to spread her feet, be shy, open and even terrified.

Chaudhary and gang needed to tweak the ending a little more, to let the detective and the audience get to it rather than handing them the answer on a plate. And to be fair, the inspiration for revenge certainly could have been less reminiscent of Rajiv Rai’s movies of the 90s, overall. The whole dacoits and drugs subplot is so unnecessarily tied together and left out that I still don’t understand its purpose other than to serve as a very nerve-wracking diversion.

However, Thar is well into the mood. Shot almost exclusively in bright sunlight or late at night, it erupts in the arid, dry and hopeless feeling. I wonder if the importance of Thar has not been seen as more than just a setting for the story. Why is the whole movie called Thar? Saw: The Indian chapter could be better. And Mohra 2? But let’s be honest, no one can beat the climax ‘Naseeruddhin Shah is not blind’ for another 20 years.


    Soumya Srivastava is the entertainment editor at the Hindustan Times. She writes about movies and TV because there’s what else in life anyway.
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