‘Aap 5 November ko kahan they’
It is the casual manner in which Arshad Warsi puts across this question to Naseeruddin Shah that you crack up instantly, despite the seriousness of the subject matter that Irada boasts of. Effortless, is what best describes the performances of the two actors who leave behind their Ishqiya antics for a much darker and sinister Irada. While Arshad gets into the Sehar mode while adding good deal of humor to his character, Naseeruddin Shah could well have suggested the makers of Irada to call it A Thursday or a A Friday, considering the fact that what he does in this story is pretty much an extension of A Wednesday.
While A Wednesday dealt with terrorists with bombs, Irada deal with terrorists through ecological contamination. By all means, this is the first ever instance of a Hindi film actually delving into this zone. In the times when one has become more receptive than ever before towards real life tales, howsoever uncomfortable they may be [Neerja, Pink], the timing of Irada couldn’t have been better. It says things as they are and takes you into cities and towns of Punjab which are all-so-familiar and make your middle class existence believe that you could well be amongst the folks who are going through trauma on screen.
Irada is uncomfortable by all means and exposes audiences towards the shocking reality around how chemical waste is corrupting the land as well as water of Punjab, hence resulting in cancer deaths in practically every family. To tell this tale, debutant director Aparnaa Singh adopts the method of combining docu-drama with for-screen-entertainment episodes. Of course, this is quite a heady mix for any filmmaker to put together and Aparnaa is indeed challenged by the complexity of it all.
This is evidenced in the first 30 minutes itself when too much is happening in quick time and you have to be really attentive to gather what exactly is the crux of the issue, how are the characters on screen [Naseeruddin Shah and Rumana Molla – who plays his daughter] getting impacted, what’s the nexus between the industrialists [Sharad Kelkar] and politicians [Divya Dutta] and how does a young woman [Sagarika Ghatge] embroiled in the episodes that are narrative. No, it isn’t about audience getting spoon-fed, but somehow, it takes quite some time to actually comprehend the true issues that are brought up.
It is only after the introduction of Arshad Warsi [playing a NIA (National Investigation Agency) officer] on the scene 30 minutes into the film when Irada takes further turn towards the better. The man is in great form here and his conviction in the subject matter shows. Be it his first meeting with Divya Dutta or the joke he cracks around ‘secret recipe’ with Rajesh Sharma (right hand man of Kelkar) or the manner in which he educates a junior IPS officer on the ‘change that is needed in the system’ to his love for single malt to explaining his son that in real life cops can’t afford to be an Ajay Devgn a la Singham – he is superb.
The narrative becomes much smoother from here and the interval point is exciting too. Yes, there are issues with the way the film is knitted together though. Call it uneven narrative due to style of direction or editing that doesn’t quite follow a certain pattern, you do get a tad lost at times. Poetry comes up suddenly, a mysterious character by the name of Bhagat Singh emerges out of nowhere, the fact that Arshad doesn’t quite go through the evidence provided by Sagarika puzzles you while you also wonder how she is left scot-free even after being caught red handed by the bad guys.
However, one is willing to leave it all aside in the larger interest of the theme that Irada boasts of. It tells a tale that not many would have dared to actually, especially when it doesn’t even feel shy of taking names. Moreover, there is a new and shocking tale which is told that belongs to the current times and could well be a looming threat to not just the state in question but also country at large. This is where the acting experience of Arshad Warsi (extremely good), Naseeruddin Shah (zero hamming, staying-true-to-character act) and Divya Dutta (excellent as a Punjabi Chief Minister) comes in handy.
By no means is Irada an entertainer of the kind that would leave you feeling good as the end credits start rolling. However, watch it as a docu-drama and it could well be an ‘inconvenient truth’ that is worth a dekko.