The most fascinating thing about the haphazardly assembled anthology film, Lantrani (Bragging) is its cross-industry casting. In the normal course, how likely would it be for Bengali star Jisshu Sengupta and Kerala’s Nimisha Sajayan to be in the same film—they do not appear together, but their names are in the credits. The directors of all three films are National Award winners, and it would be interesting to know how this project came about. All the three stories have been “collected and written” by Durgesh Kumar, the writer of the popular OTT show, Panchayat, so absurd humour is the overriding tone.
In the first film, Hud Hud Dabbang, a constable, Dileep (Johnny Lever—inspired casting), who had done nothing more adventurous than maintain paperwork in all his years at the rural station, is tasked with escorting a prisoner (Jisshu Sengupta) to court. It is his last day before retirement, but the other cops are on VIP duty (protecting a visiting Madhuri Dixit), so Dileep is given a pistol with one bullet, that he has never used, and a motorbike, that he has never ridden, for which he is thrilled. Unable to ride the bike, he asks the prisoner to take them on the 250 km journey. With some funny but pointless diversions on the way, they reach court and Dileep finds that his dignified and mostly silent charge is being unfairly convicted, more due to social biases than for a genuine crime. The story shines because of the performance of the two actors, both of whom are out of their comfort zones.
The second film, Sanitized Samachar, by Bhaskar Hazarika, is a slightly dated pandemic period story when a TV channel led by a wheelchair-bound boss (Boloram Das), is on the verge of closing down. Running out of cash to keep the show going, rent collectors crashing the office, his star anchor locked at home with COVID, he has to do what it takes to make some money to stop the crash, even if the sanctity of the news has to be compromised in the bargain. This is the weakest and most implausible of the three, and the satire remains blunt.
It is sharpened in the the third film, Dharna Mana Hai, by Gurvinder Singh, which could be seen as an extension of Panchayat, in which the female Sarpanch of the village was in name only, to fulfill the reserved women’s quota, while her husband was the de facto head. In this film, the female Sarpanch, Gomti Devi (Nimisha Sajayan) is a clear leader, and her husband (Jitendra Kumar) is a willing follower. The two of them sit on a silent dharna outside the district headquarters, because the other ‘panchayat’ members refuse to sign the bank documents that would allow her to claim benefits for the village. From being mocked as mayflies that won’t last a day, their protest extends to ridiculous lengths and leads to an unexpected and brave end.
These are satirical stories of ordinary people in difficult circumstances, who face their challenges with the limited resources at their disposal. There is anger in there, also courage and resignation– the mix makes for a watchable show.
- Directors: Kaushik Ganguly, Bhaskar Hazarika, Gurvinder Singh
- Cast: Johnny Lever, Jisshu Sengupta, Jitendra Kumar, Nimisha Sajayan and others
- On Zee 5