There is much to know about Punjab beyond politics, crime and drugs and the makers of IRADA at least gather some courage to make a film on the same revolving around a key city of the state featuring an interesting cast.
However I seriously wish the project was written, executed and publicized in a much stronger and fearless manner, since the present one unfortunately presents a lesser known, eye opener issue with quite a lame and unimpressive vision which fails to make any kind of solid impact on the viewer as required.
Revolving around a terribly disturbing truth of a known region in Punjab becoming the victim of water contamination because of a politically shielded industry and its reverse boring process (mixing chemicals with the groundwater), IRADA reveals a scary untold truth spreading the deadly cancer in people. And then introduces the harsh reality of a ‘CANCER TRAIN’ taking the patients from Bathinda to Bikaner (for treatment), also becoming a potential source of clients for the new Insurance agents.
No doubt the debutant director Aparnaa Singh surely deserves praises for selecting such an off-beat, dark subject talking about eco-terrorism (as the film calls it) in her very first attempt. But sadly the choice of subject doesn’t get any great support from its writers and the execution too remains far less than anything impactful lessening the alarming, social importance of its crucial subject.
Probably it was both the inexperience of the team and fear of the censor or involved parties that the makers didn’t even try to present it as any bold, in-depth film showcasing the lesser known reality. The subject matter surely had a lot to shock the uninformed or unaware viewers, but the film seldom intends to do the same and therefore keeps walking on the surface without getting into any ugly deeper pits intentionally.
Beginning with the emotional story of a father and his young athlete daughter (in the first 20 minutes), the film suddenly changes path moving on to the other related subplots involving a journalist, a corrupt politician, a cunning industrialist and an honest investigating officer appointed for the case. Taking too much time in the build-up, the relationships only gets established after almost an hour when the key plot is revealed and its only post the intermission that the viewer feels like watching something better talking about a shocking social issue to be honest. However an amateurish climax further ruins the entire excitement felt in its concluding hour.
Proving as the biggest savior apart from its appreciable plot, IRADA has an interesting cast featuring Naseeruddin Shah as the distressed father, Arshad Warsi as the smart, honest officer, Divya Dutta as a corrupt abusive politician (mostly speaking in Punjabi) and Sharad Kelkar as the mean, exploitive industrialist or the villain. Where both Naseer and Arshad keep trying to do their best in their half-baked roles, Divya and Sharad remain loud and unreal throughout due to the weak characterizations and Sagarika Ghatge fails to deliver anything worth noticing playing the revenge seeking journalist. Surprisingly the youngest of them all, Ruman Molla scores the maximum as the innocent, victim girl in her few scenes.
Besides the real life sources, the director also draws her inspiration from Julia Robert’s classic ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000) based on a similar subject, but remains unable to make any taut, exciting thriller following the identical format.
Summing up, IRADA has its heart in the right place and the intensions also noble choosing an untouched and relevant subject showcasing the present state of Punjab. But sadly that is not sufficient for making any winning film. As my personal conclusion, it would have been an entirely different outcome if the film was made in Punjabi instead of Hindi with a leading young actor playing the role of a short tempered investigating officer going after the politician and the industrialist together like an angry young man.
Rating : 2 + 1 (with the additional 1 just for the choice of subject and bringing the truth forward in front of the entire nation)