Bhakshak review: A simple, honest, touching, brave and timely commentary on journalism and our nation!

Sakshi Sharma
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Bhakshak review: A film about the true 'animal' we all live around and, indirectly, are slowly turning towards being without any exaggerating chest-thumping heroism.

Most of us are simple-minded Indians who are simply busy trying to make a living. We do discuss things, some of us post them on our social media handles, and even try to revolt, but soon forget about it all. It's easier to sit at home, complacent and safe, hoping for a change, than to voice our opinions out loud and be trolled and bullied for having an opinion at all. Hence, we often rely on someone else, maybe a savior, to stand up and make this 'hope for a change' a reality. It's one of the reasons why we love to worship hero-centric cinema! But occasionally, you come across a film showing you the mirror and telling you that the onus of change lies on 'you,' and Bhakshak does exactly that!

It's based on a true crime story of a horror house of child abuse parading as a women's shelter home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, run by a government-supported MLA. In 2018, 34 minors who had endured horrible sexual abuse over the years by some crazy animal men were discovered. It's not a story you don't know, haven't read, or have seen in the news. So what's new? The way Bhakshak tells this story! It's a PSA film that's parading as a journalistic investigative thriller where a tenacious and determined journalist, Vaishali (Bhumi Pednerkar), and her loyal cameraperson Bhaskar (Sajay Mishra) unveil the crimes of the sinister MLA Bansi Sahu (Aditya Srivastav) and his team. 

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Although Vaishali looks like one, she is not a law-breaking crusading vigilante on a mission. She is this female journalist whose heart breaks when she hears such news about young girls being abused. She is a working woman, just like anyone else, who has been married for six years but refuses to back down when forced down by her traditional husband and his relatives. She wants to save those girls because no one else is doing it, but she chooses the path of fact-finding journalism even when everything is working against her. 

Vaishali, with her channel 'Koshish,' is just simply trying to seek the truth by asking the 'right' questions and criticizing the government for not getting the answers. She is not here for pin-pointing and creating unnecessary drama and neither is this film! She is what most women are referred to as when they start speaking their minds about something political - "an emotionally passionate krantikari". And who says 'Krantikari' is only when you fight for the nation and make 'terrorism personal'? It's also when crime against women within the country is made personal. And we don't need to wait for something to happen to someone close to us to do so! 

The film doesn't trivialize the news story for its own gain. Rather, in the film, the haunting truth of the abuses of these minors, the cigarette burns, marks, or scars on their bodies is kept to a bare minimum; even their identity and stories have the shadow of anonymity. That doesn't mean that you don't see the villainy of the act, the evilness of these men. You just don't see this in an exploitative way. It also doesn't make Vaishali into a rising hero or leave you with any hope by the end. In fact, this film is not interested in giving you answers at all. Every time you feel there is a solution close enough, like a viral video gaining Viashali huge viewership or an entry of a solid female DSP, it just all turns to false hope. 

Bhumi Pednekar and Sanjay Mishra are both exceptionally talented and reliable actors, but their relationship is so refreshing to watch. And Aditya Srivastav, yes, Abhijeet from CID, is so good that you want to hit his smug face every time he smiles. Durgesh Kumar, as the informer, is an absolute scene stealer though. Every other cast member delivers on their performance making this the most honest cinema so close to reality! With compelling music, this film by Pulkit and co-writer Jyotsana is unlike any other commentary film on journalism or a social message. It's a simple, on-the-nose spoon-feeding film but its braveness lies in the fact that it understands that, at this time, it needs to be that. It is timely because it also looks at journalism, bureaucracy, or the state of our nation in terms of how the audience chooses to react to the news, putting the onus on all of 'us.'

Bhakshak borrows from journalism as it is not here to find resolutions in fiction; rather, it is here to do the basic job of a watchdog of democracy - ask questions. And just like in Jawaan when SRK looks us all directly in the eyes to talk to us, similarly, here, Bhumi Pednekar takes the same route and leaves us with questions about who we would want to be - an animal who chooses to react to whatever is being fed to them through WhatsApp forwards, TV channels, or any other source, or a human being who has their own mind and reads between the lines, going beyond just gulping down breaking news headlines. The choice is 'ours'.

Bhakshak is currently streaming on Netflix!

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