About the story: Thakur Avadh Narayan Singh (Om Puri) rules iron-fisted and with cruel methods over his subordinates in Shekhapur. While his wife, the Thakurain (Mita Vasisht), again and again tries to makes a positive impact on her husband, his two sons have only two interests: alcohol and girls. One day they rape in broad daylight nine-year-old Durga (Tani Hedge) and abandon her, seriously injured, to her fate. Thanks to the hospital leader (Anjaan Srivastav) Durga survives, and police officer Ramnarayan Bharadwaj (Jackie Shroff) can identify and arrest the culprits. But with the help of his lawyer, the thakur buys both doctor and Bharadwaj so that his sons can await to be acquitted for lack of evidence. Durga’s poor and helpless parents Paro (Nandita Das) and Rudra (Sanjay Dutt) realize that they may not expect justice from the judiciary. So Rudra decides to take matters in his own hand and afterwards to commit suicide together with Paro, Durga and his two little sons Lav and Kush as he knows that the thakur will never spare them...
Is self-administered justice allowed? This is a question many Indian films are raising as such "justice" often is carried out like a duck takes to water which sometimes is really scary. In Pitaah (= father) Rudra is even spured on to take the law into his own hands by a background music continuously yelling, "Stop thinking and destroy!" As a consequence, Pitaah often is labelled a revenge drama. But I think differently about that. In a revenge drama, Rudra would have hunted the culprits throughout the entire second film half, and only shortly before the end he would have slaughtered them after a bloody dogfight (a method Sanjay himself showed e.g. in Mahaanta which definitely is a vendetta movie). But in Pitaah we first experience the act of self-administered justice and then the consequences – the flight and persecution of Rudra’s family, desperately seeking to escape the thakur’s revenge. And they are supported by the villagers who approve of Rudra’s deed as the thakur’s lawyer openly had boasted about having bribed the doctor and the police officer, and so it was perfectly clear to everybody that the criminals who had raped the little girl would get away scot-free.
A film which goes under your skin, also thanks to its fabulous cast. Nandita Das and Mita Vasisht are terrific, and so is Om Puri in a role which usually rather was to be played by his name colleague Amrish. Too bad that Jackie Shroff’s dubious character didn’t get a little more profile; some of his permanent changes of mood are not understandable which is not Jackie’s fault who obviously enjoyed his part, but the script’s – especially Bharadwaj’s last and decisive mental turnaround happens so unmotivatedly that the character loses all credibility.
Sanjay, however, is once again a class of his own as the simple and naive Rudra who all his life had to degrade himself because he is poor and dependant from the thakur’s grace, and who without the bestial rape of his daughter never even would have dreamt of raising his hand against his master’s household. But Rudra is just not only a slave but also, and above all, a father, and it’s the pitaah’s praise which is sung right at the beginning of the film. With his intense and forceful performance Sanjay aims right into your heart so that you feel and suffer with him – and probably even endorse that Rudra takes the law in his own hands even though you usually would oppose to self-administered justice. As for me, Sanju managed effortlessly to do so. But who would not be on the victims’ side in such a flagrant case of scandalous injustice...
Produced by Avinash Adik; Directed by Mahesh Manjrekar
130 Min.; DVD: Spark, English Subtitles (including songs); the DVD also contains a short Making Of.
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