Nothing can be more tragic than a well-intended film getting it all wrong. For no fault of the actors. Director Aruna Raje has an interesting trajectory. She co-directed the strong marital drama "Shaque" in the early 1970s and has never shunned away from exploring issues related to the "F" word that rhymes with "Shaque". In "Rihaee" she had boldly cast Hema Malini as the wife of a migratory husband who needs sexual fulfillment. Koi shaque? (Any doubt?)
In Firebrand, the Netflix film produced by Priyanka Chopra and her mother, the sexual desires of the protagonists are put under the absurdest of ordeals to make the characters illustrative of various brands of sexual dynamics. The protagonist Sunanda, a divorce lawyer played by the talented Usha Jadav, struggles with various demons including rape which happened when she was a teenager. The traumatic experience impinges on her marriage to the unbelievably kind and considerate Madhav (Girish Kulkarni) who is so much an emblem of detoxicated masculinity that he appears to be a caricature of spousal compassion.
After a misfired bout of sexual intercourse with his wife (shot with a clumsiness that comes naturally to all demonstration of intimacy in Indian cinema) Madhav tells Sunanda it's "okay" to not have sex in their marriage because love and sex are two issues. "Firebrand" means well. It wants us to empathise with a rape victim's efforts to rise above her past tragedy. But the methods employed are so amateurish you wonder what the director and her writers were thinking while assembling the damaged plot about damaged characters. (IANS)
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