“Bandook aur goliyan, auraton ka gehna na hove hain”, roars the chauvinistic head of the clan. Well, little does he know he would have to eat his own words, as it’s the women in the clan who are all set to prove who is the real boss. The film is based on the true story of the ‘Shooter Daadis’ Praskasi and Chandro Tomar, the sexagenarian sharp shooters, who defied the patriarchy, cast aside the feudal traditions and proved it’s never too late to follow your dreams. Starring Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pendekar as Prakashi and Chandro Tomar, ‘Saand Ki Aankh’ hits bulls eye, literally with its narrative and performances.
The dusty village of Johari, in Uttar Pradesh is like any other village, as the men folk sit on charpoys and smoke hookahs, it’s the women folk who toil away, at home and in the fields. In Purdah, they are not be heard, dare if they speak, they are silenced with a glare from the ‘men of the house’, if they have any ambition – be it education or starting a small scale business, is unheard of, their fate lies in the hands of their husbands and sons. Here is where we are introduced to the Tomar Clan, three brothers, their wives and their endless brood of kids who live under one roof.
We are given a peek into the lives of sisters-in-law Chandrasi and Prakasi (Bhumi Pendekar and Taapsee Pannu), who have spent six decades of their lives, giving birth to one child after the other, bringing the children up, managing the kitchen, and toiling hard in the fields. When Prakasi, who is talented with sewing and stitching, wants to start a business from home, she is shut up by the oldest brother-in-law Rattan Singh (Prakash Jha) with a ‘ki zaroot hai’, who breaks her sewing machine when he sees the youngest child, a daughter, dressed in trousers and shirt.
Resigned to their fate, little do they realise life is all set to take a 180 degree turn. As Doctor Saab (Vineet Kumar) opens a makeshift shooting academy in the village. The self-obsessed men folk balk at his idea, after all, men don’t need to learn anything, they are born with innate talent for it all. It’s the Tomar granddaughters who want to try their luck at the range, with a little help from the grandmothers. Little does anyone realise, it’s the sixty-something Chandrasi and Prakasi who have the skill to shoot and hit bulls eye, Saand Ki Aaankh.
The grandmothers, encouraged by the Doctor, and their two granddaughters Seema and Shefali practice, train and sneak out to attend competitions, unbeknownst to the men folk in the house. One competition after the other Chandrasi and Prakasi Tomar are on top of the tally charts, impressing snobs who mock them and gathering fans with their simple and pure approach to the sport.
Encouraging their granddaughters along the way, the four Tomar girls embark on a journey, that none of the women in their home and village have ever dared too.
They endear with their child-like wonderment, as they sport tinted shades for the first time, guzzle down champagne, dance with abandon and struggle to speak in broken English, making the most of each moment. The two have each other’s back, united in their mission, Chandrasi translates the speech of one of the Royals who says, “I am proud of my wife,” Prakasi wonders, would their husbands be proud of them, Chandrasi retorts with, “Garv nahi haddi todh renege.”
All hell breaks loose when Ratan Singh is told to allow the granddaughters to join a national level shooting camp, instead of applauding for Chandrasi and Prakasi and their achievements, they are humiliated, their medals thrown away. After all, how dare they rebel against the men of the house? Their failures are celebrated and their victories are mourned.
Directed by debutante Director Tushar Hiranandani, Saandh Ki Aankh is a simple story, but the message is loaded, the ugly truths of a patriarchal society, their myopic vision, where women are bullied and sullied, their voices silenced, their hopes and desires extinguished. Education, sports and securing a future are for the boys. It’s the men, after all, who rule – and the women who toil, a mindset so deeply rooted, that we have spent 72 years breaking out of it.
Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pendekar are in sync with each other, the two actors don’t try to outshine one another, but rather support each other from the word go. Though a few senior actors may have raised questions over the casting, I think these two ladies were the perfect Shooter Daadis, they get under the skin of their character, get the dialect right, giving go for gold performance.
Prakash Jha as the tyrant head of the family Rattan Singh deserves a special mention, you hate him and want to shake him, this is how real he gets. Vineet Kumar as Doctor Saab is good, but is no where as powerful as his performance in Mukkabaaz.
While the narrative does get stretched at moments, with a run time of 2 hours 30 mins, a few moments seem repetitive – this one is a family film that should be watched with your grandmothers. Who knows, there just might be another Shooter Daadi, waiting to hit bulls eye!
Rating: 3.5 out 5