<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Harshavardhan G. Kulkarni. Starring Gulshan Devaiah, Radhika Apte, Sai Tamhankar, Veera Saxena, Sagar Deshmukh
I know a couple of women who aren’t too keen to watch this movie and many who may think it’s a lewd sex comedy. They can’t be more wrong.
Hunterrr is a film about a man and his sexual urges. Yes. But for some to label that as ‘misogynistic’ or ‘lecherous’ is totally unfair. Sure, there are scenes in the film that make you gape a bit like when Mandar Ponkshe (Gulshan Devaiah) likens having sex to taking a dump; a human need. But then you realise the truth behind his statement. Sex, just like food, clothing and shelter (and yes the regular bowel movement) is inherent to human existence. It makes you happier and healthier.
Mandar is not a sex addict. He stumbles upon sex innocently watching porn and observing girls just like most pubescent males. Hunterrr is a coming-of-age film where the protagonist doesn’t really grow up. His intrigue for sex leads him to have several affairs but they’re not all devoid of emotion.
Yes Mandar stares at women but some of them stare back. And for critics to say that it objectifies women in a way is a bias and unfair to women. It’s like saying women don’t like men, don’t like looking at men, don’t like sex and don’t want to hit on a man ever! And if the film shows Mandar sleeping with married women then how is that just the man’s fault? The married woman is sleeping with Mandar isn’t she? For most of us living in the real world we know someone or the other in a situation that is all too familiar to the scenarios depicted in Hunterrr. Feminism and the liberation of women has meant that women today are just as free as men to cheat and have ‘open relationships’.
What’s lovely about Hunterrr is the sincere portrayal of these characters by all the actors. Sai Tamhankar as Jyotsna, one of Mandar’s consistent ‘girlfriends’, stands out in particular for how engaging she is. She’s hardly the lonely housewife who is being preyed upon by the ‘pervert’. In fact, I saw a more genuine chemistry between these two characters than that between Mandar and Tripti (Radhika Apte) who Mandar has met to arrange an ‘arranged marriage’. But even their dynamic is crucial to the film to show us that not all relationships are about falling madly in love. Sometimes you need a friend that understands the person you are, be it a ‘vaasu’ (stud, Romeo, player), a bisexual or whatever your past may be.
And Gulshan Devaiah walks away with all the credit for portraying Mandar Ponkshe in a truly sincere and endearing manner. Not once do we get a hint of anything lecherous, insidious or off during the proceedings. The boy who plays the young Mandar is also brilliant in his role ‘making friendship’ with the girls in school and bonding with his friends over how to ‘patao’ a girl.
It would have been nice to get more insight into Mandar’s first girlfriend Parul (Veera Saxena) who still manages to quietly convey her emotions when her boyfriend’s roving eye leaves her. Also, the constant back and forth between timelines – 20 years ago, Present Day, 6 months later, 1989 – is both confusing and pointless. It adds nothing to the story apart from confusion. And I thought that perhaps the second half of the film got a tad lost from where it began.
Hunterrr could have gone horribly wrong with a different cast, director and story turning into a vulgar farce, which we see enough of in our ‘mainstream’ Bollywood films. But thankfully, we get a seriously honest film about sexuality, relationships, men and women that is funny and insightful.