‘Bhakshak’ movie review: Well-intentioned bore

Grappling with social evils and injustice, the film ‘Bhakshak’ on Netflix bravely attempts to shine a light on detestable crimes within a supposed safe haven for girls. Director Pulkit steers the movie into the murky waters of a girls’ shelter home, where the atrocious nexus between local political bosses, law enforcement, and administrative authorities breeds heinous crimes.

Starring Bhumi Pednekar and Sanjay Mishra, ‘Bhakshak’ scores a humble 2 out of 5 as it struggles to balance its well-meant narrative with the excitement of drama. Pednekar, redolent of a character inspired by Erin Brockovich albeit with a tempered intensity, represents a sincere journalist. Alongside Mishra, her character embarks on a David-versus-Goliath battle to expose the deplorable conditions and rampant abuse within a shelter home, run by Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti.

Transporting viewers to Bihar, the movie’s setting, Munawwarpur, serves as an allegory to the disturbing Muzaffarpur shelter case of 2018. As the story unfolds, the audience is taken through various Bihari towns, from Samastipur to Motihari. However, the true essence of the film lies in Munawwarpur’s gut-wrenching tale of minors being endlessly abused.

Despite its promising setup, ‘Bhakshak’ is marred by predictability and lack of engrossing sub-plots. The explicit violence commonly depicted in films that portray women in peril, dubbed ‘fem-jep’ flicks, is thankfully absent from the screen. Instead, Pulkit opts for subtlety, allowing the horrors to loom off the screen and letting the suggestion of violence speak volumes. The consequence is a chilling reminder of the crimes without the exploitation often seen in ‘fem-jep’ narratives.

Pednekar, redeemed from her prior performance in ‘Thank You For Coming,’ delivers a grounded and earnest act. Her on-screen partner, Mishra, complements her character’s zeal with his dependable presence. Aditya Srivastava takes on the role of the one-dimensional antagonist, adding the necessary face to the evil the protagonists are up against.

The film’s execution, however, falls flat, offering no gripping drama or riveting scenes to keep the audience invested. The script forecasts its trajectory from the start, leading the viewer along a road of boredom interspersed with moments of passive acknowledgment of the predictable outcome.

Produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies, ‘Bhakshak’ treads a path similar to the company’s earlier OTT release ‘Love Hostel’ – a straightforward narrative without additional layers or depth. This direct-to-OTT strategy, while effective in evading theatrical release complexities, may also suggest a lack of confidence in the film’s mass appeal.

‘Bhakshak’ inadvertently sparks a debate on the efficacy of its storytelling medium. The film implies a question whether intricate social issues can be better addressed through impactful documentaries or in-depth news reports, contrasting the often superficial and sensational coverage of mainstream television news.

While ‘Bhakshak’ endeavors to bring critical social issues to light, akin to uncovering the shocking truths in towns like Bhopal and Nashik, it also unintentionally provides a commentary on the state of investigative journalism. The movie raises important concerns but does little beyond laying bare the facts, facts that are already available with a cursory Google search.

In summary, ‘Bhakshak,’ despite an earnest performance by Pednekar and a relevant theme, falls prey to its monotonous narrative and lack of dramatic layers. It stands as a sobering reflection on real-world tragedies but fails to transcend the role of a cinematic retelling into engaging or thought-provoking art.

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