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Flawless Nimrat Kaur regales in this potentially viral suspense thriller – Beyond Bollywood

Writer-director Mikhil Musale delivers a gripping suspense thriller that rides on its writing, and some top notch performances.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨️ (3.5 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

We live in the digital age, where the world is on your finger tips. Just few touches and the internet takes you places. Beware though, a single touch can also be like an arrow. Once released, it ain’t coming back. There can be mayhem if an unintended touch (post) lands in the naked waters of social media .

Poor Sajni Shinde [Radhika Madan] didn’t even fire this arrow. She, however, was the object of the ‘shoot’ – captured, and accidently posted by her colleague.

The Puneri girl’s birthday night in Singapore turns into a horror as visuals of an inebriated Sajni dancing in a revealing outfit goes viral across the internet.

Though reluctant, Kalyani [Bhagyashree], the high school principal is compelled to fire Sajni and two other teachers for bringing dispute to the institution.

There is more agony for Sajni as her fiance Siddhant [Sohum Majumdar] laments her for embarrassing him, and their two families. He hung up on her. That was the last time he heard from Sajni. A day later, word spreads that Sajni is missing but interestingly, she left behind a note blaming Siddhant, and her father for her woes. If this is a suicide note, but the body is nowhere to be found.

Officer Bela Barot [Nimrat Kaur] is entrusted with the task to find Sajni – dead or alive.

Writer-director Mikhil Musale has a mystery thriller up his sleeves. The investigation takes places parallely but Musale and his co-writers Parinda Joshi, Anu Singh Choudhary, Kshitij Patwardhan, create a gripping drama that rides more on its characters.

Musale’s films encompass the social environment that leads to the conflict. Made in China [2019] was an unheralded gem that braved to talk about the business culture in a traditional Gujarati family.

There’s no enterprising here, but a Sajni Shende Ka Viral Video is a fine allegory on human relationships. It condemns body shaming, harps on the negative side to technology, social media. Remarkably, it makes its points without really hammering it.

Musale sets his story in Pune. Unlike the many subsidized productions, a Sajni Shinde Ka Viral Video is no Pune tourism. How can it be when Advocate Yashwant Desai [Kiran Karmarkar] chides, “Pune used to be a place for pension, now it has become a place of tension”. Pune’s cultural reference isn’t lost but Musale doesn’t impose it in his screenplay. Education hub, quaint city, dam, local music, theatre – everything just flows organically into the screenplay.

One though can’t take your eyes off the Shinde family. Suryakant Shinde [Subodh Bhave] leaves a lasting impression. He is a respected stage artist often drawing applause from his loyal audience. Once an actor, always an actor. He never brings the real Suryakant on the stage. One who dominates his wife and children. The mother is a meek soul. The younger son feels he isn’t valued in this house. He bemoans how he has to remind his family about his birthday too.

The Shindes aren’t quite dysfunctional, but they aren’t a close knit family. Long subdued in this environment, Sajni perhaps found some fresh air in the company of her fiance Siddhant Kadam. Sensing her vulnerability, the ₹8 million a year salary drawing Siddhant cleverly uses that to gain pleasure in this arranged relationship.

As often, all it takes is a moment to burst the bubble. Sajni’s disappearance reveals the true colours of Siddhant, Suryakant, and perhaps even her mother Urmila [Sneha Raikar]. Colleagues are seldom yours. Shraddha [Shruti Vyas] milks Sajni’s disappearance for vested interest. Chhavi [Rashmi Agdekar] simply distances herself from this mess.

Viral video, missing Sajni, the Shinde surname perhaps also comes with its social stigma.

Musale addresses many issues, but it is not a case of too many eggs in one basket. He displays his finesse in both writing and direction ensuring that nothing is misplaced here.

Nimrat Kaur

The director of course has a fine talent at his disposal. He brings the best out of his cast. It’s not Sajni but Bela who steals the march over most. Nimrat Kaur has been around for a while. She’s largely earned critical acclaim. Didn’t the Sikh girl do an item number ? Perhaps her casting is often driven by a horses-for-courses policy . Mikhil Musale presents her like never before. Chuck the glam. Brawn is overrated. Bela Barot is tough as nails. The senior cop comes with a take no prisoners attitude. She will stand to misogyny. Her verbal volleys with Suryakant are enough to shut the insider-outsider debate. Bela doesn’t fire much guns but she has answer for every barb. Ah, don’t assume her to be any vanguard of feminism. On the contrary, Bela is out to shut Bollywood’s brand of woke feminism that reeks of self-indulgence than substance. Oh, how the men cheered when she dismisses boozing, sexual freedom as woke. Be careful what you say to Bela. She sure will make you eat your own words soon.

She maybe tough talking, but Bela has a sense of humour too and she doesn’t mind a good joke on her. Her subordinate Ram Pawar [Chinmay Mandlekar] and other cops around have given her the name dooberman [Dobermann]. She discovers it via an accidental SMS from Ram. Her instant reaction is that of bewilderment but soon Bela is sporting enough to see the lighter side of it. It’s the moment where the ‘outsider’ earns the respect of the local Puneri cop. Kaur gets to display the feisty Sikhni in her. She does it with supreme confidence, intellect and a wry sense of humour. Bela is perhaps a career redefining role and Nimrat is simply flawless.

Radhika Madan, Soham Majumdar

The other near perfectionist is Soham Majumdar. Starting off as Mr.Niceguy, we get to see the real mean Siddhant. Majumdar is convincing in his different shades. Suryakant is the stage artist, but it’s Siddhant who gets to bring out the actor within the actor in this film. Majumdar may not have a pretty face, chiselled body, but he sure is bound to win many admirers through his brilliant act.

Subodh Bhave, Sneha Raikwar

Subodh Bhave simply proves why he is much appreciated in Marathi cinema. His act as a thespian, chauvinist husband- father is a sheer virtuoso. For once, 90s actor Bhagyashree shows some promise too.

Radhika Madan

Where does that leave our missing protagonist? Radhika Madan is talented but she’s often excelled in playing North Indian characters. A hardcore Delhi girl playing a Puneri girl. Barring the first sentence, Madan doesn’t speak much Marathi. She’s fine with the first sentence, but it’s hard to keep out the Delhi tone in the following sentences. Is that a flaw? Perhaps not as Musale takes care of it by making Sajni the odd one out in this Maharashtrian family.

Connoisseurs of suspense thriller will question as to how a key aspect is only probed in the climax. Fair argument, but globally, crime thriller sagas thrive on diversion with the suspense, mystery only unveiled at the business end. The neat production design, thrilling background score complement the screenplay.

We have another gripping Mikhil Musale story/screenplay, some top notch performance and plenty of social messages. As a film, Sajni Shinde Ka Viral Video has all the potential to go viral.

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