Thar has many elements jostling for our attention: a small outpost in a border town, a mysterious stranger, a couple of cops, and a series of bodies, draining life blood, decomposing, dying. But it’s one of those films where the setting is the real hero – the ‘marusthal’ (desert) that stretches as far as the eye can see, the crumbling forts, the bare trees offering meager shade, the unrelenting and harsh beauty . This stunning landscape and haunting soundscape become the site of a “bawandar” (storm), as one main character describes it, which sweeps away everything in its path. These images and sounds of Tar will stick with me, even if I quibble over some of them.
This film would have been called a spaghetti western when Sholay (1975) was released. The filmmakers know how Thar, set in 1985, reminds us of the OG desi western – a balcony with a woman towering over it, blazing desert lights, gunmen slamming on horses and screeching violins. And just in case we’ve lost sight of him, Detective Surekha Singh (Anil Kapoor), who likes to be explanatory, wonders aloud if this isn’t the bad guy Gabbar anymore, but maybe Jai and Veeru, or even Basanti, or, you know, Ramlal?
Having believed he’d muddied the waters enough (dialogue credited to Anurag Kashyap, who was probably smiling when he wrote this and other salty, invective-laden lines in the film), the cop who stuck by his work without getting a promotion, returns to work: who is behind the killings?
As in all good westerns, the needle of suspicion swings towards the almost silent outsider, who frequents a small restaurant run by a cheerful man in suspenders. Siddharth (Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor) wears “khakee” and ochre, which match the colors of the film, and criss-crosses the area in a muddy jeep. Who is this guy? Is he really an antique dealer as he claims? Or is there something more sinister going on? There are drug cultivators and smugglers. Were they responsible for the terrible acts?
Meanwhile, we are presented with the most gruesome and gruesome scenes of violence, bordering on torture porn. And this is where the film begins to seem excessive: the victims, suspended from the ceiling, blood flowing through multiple orifices (I will never see a rat in the same way again), tirelessly beg for mercy. At that time, we are numb and don’t care about anything. A well-judged mystery reveals its cards at the right time. In the Thar, it’s just a little too late. Between the two, a section featuring “afeem” (opium) smugglers from Pakistan and their accomplices on the Indian side is added. But those threads don’t really tie together well enough, and the film, for all its brilliant technical specs, feels underwhelming. .
In a place that seems so real, many actors seem grafted. The group believed to be locals (Jitendra Joshi and Sanjay Bishnoi among them) look like they might belong, but even they stand out when placed against the villagers that dot multiple scenes. Fatima Sana Shaikh makes us aware that she has hidden feelings, but she commands attention and her outfit looks like a costume. And Harsh Varrdhan is too deadpan even when he shares his restlessness. By contrast, Anil Kapoor, though not appearing rustic enough, glides smoothly through the film, zigzagging, tugging, swearing with ease: he is the film’s worn and weary moral center, and he does not dodge a single ball.
The best performance comes from Satish Kaushik: as a lower caste cop whose uniform is a shield in more ways than one, Bhure is one with the ‘thar’. That’s where he comes from, and that’s where he’s going.
Director of the film Thar: Raj Singh Chaudhary
The cast of the film Thar: Anil Kapoor, Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Jitendra Joshi, Sanjay Bishnoi, Sanjay Dadhich, Mukti Mohan
Ranking of the stars of the film Thar: 2.5 stars