Review of the India Lockdown: The Madhur Bhandarkar picture maintains things fairly realistic without resorting to theatrical twists and turns.
I don’t believe anybody will forget the evening of March 24, 2020, when a statewide lockdown was declared in the aftermath of the Covid-19 outbreak for 21 days. Almost three years later, filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar’s film, India Lockdown, transports you back to those dark days, making an earnest attempt to reproduce the horrors that everyone experienced in different ways with the outbreak of the epidemic.
The film doesn’t offer you much time to reflect in between its four concurrent storylines about various faces of human emotions and difficulties. Despite being a cinematic depiction of the country’s first and subsequent lockdowns, India Lockdown maintains things fairly realistic without adding histrionic twists and turns.
Everyone is becoming a home chef, trying new recipes every day, young couples becoming restless because they can’t go out on dates, long lines outside grocery stores, mandatory health checks and home quarantine, aversion to wearing masks – Bhandarkar picks on various elements and narrates their stories in minute detail. The film is two hours long and doesn’t waste time switching between narratives. The lack of any music or dance routine is an added advantage.
The winner of India Lockdown is its casting and nuanced performances from each of the characters, rather than the plot and writing. My favourite stories in the video are those involving migrants and sex workers and how their lives were negatively impacted while dealing with scant survival supplies.
The song featuring migrant couple Madhav and Phoolmati (Prateik Babbar and Sai Tamhankar) and their two young daughters will shatter your heart. The devastation created by the lockdown is incomprehensible to the average person. The visuals of people travelling kilometres every day in searing heat, often without food or drink, will leave you with a knot in your throat. Babbar does his part brilliantly, allowing the suffering his character is experiencing to move you. There’s a particularly disturbing scene in which Babbar scrapes into a pile of rubbish in search of sustenance. Tamhankar is equally powerful and believable in her role.
Mehrunissa’s (Shweta Basu Tripathi) narrative in Mumbai’s Kamathupura is a blend of joy and grief. It’s heartwarming to witness how these ladies, despite the fact that they can’t do their jobs that need physical contact, find ways to make each other laugh, smile, and stay positive in difficult situations. Prasad is a revelation and gives a fantastic performance that makes you question what type of preparation she did for this character to make it appear so natural on television. Her body language, mannerisms, accent, and everything else is spot on and she never seems out of place. There are a few lines and sequences that may make some people uncomfortable or even wince, but that is the beauty of Bhandarkar’s film. He draws you closer to him.
Instead of preaching moral teachings via his film, he captures the spirit of these individual experiences, which is the most relevant component of the film. Celebrating a bad Covid report, dressing up at home with nowhere to go, video calls becoming a way of life, and the ‘new normal’ becoming a part of everyone’s lives – India Lockdown has a little bit of everything. I sincerely hope (and wish) that Bhandarkar makes a sequel to this film, describing the horrors of the second wave of Covid, which took countless lives and left the country’s healthcare system in shambles. Until then, watch this and think about how you adapted to your new normal.