REVISION: ‘Natkhat’ revolves around the story of Sonu (Sanika Patel), a 7-year-old boy who comes home one day and nonchalantly brags to his father and grandfather that he kidnapped his classmate from school and ‘ teach the girl a lesson. ‘ On the one hand, the family patriarch smiles and says, “Ladka hain, ho jaata hain”, which implies that Sonu is simply influenced by television and that he should limit his viewing to the Ramayana and Mahabharata from now on. Sonu’s mother, on the other hand, is concerned about the possibility that her son inherits deep-seated traits of male chauvinism. She takes matters into her own hands by teaching Sonu the values of equality through the ancient art of bedtime stories.
Notions like “children will be children”, “children do not cry” have been so deeply ingrained in our sociocultural fabric that young minds often assimilate them without knowing it. Shaan Vyas brilliantly illustrates the same in this social drama while wearing the director’s hat for the first time. The dining room table scene, in which all the men in the house eat and the women serve them flatbreads, is wonderfully filmed to illustrate the significance of power dynamics between men and women.
The script has been meticulously written by Annukampa Harsh and Shaan Vyas. With the help of a bedtime story by Raja Rudra Kumar and his daughter Urmi, the protagonist speaks of a society without women and the world that is more or less dying from its own madness. The story and the background score are cleverly combined to expose the qualities and analogies between women and birds, kings and young brats. Initially, the storytelling takes a long time to establish Sonu’s personality traits, especially the negative influences in his life. However, the characters have the depth and bring the intensity required with their actions.
Dressed in simple saris, Vidya Balan (who has also co-produced this film with Ronnie Screwvala) plays her role as a housewife and loving mother with conviction. Her character hits hard at toxic masculinity, and she’s comfortable sharing screen space with a newcomer child artist, Sanika Patel. The mother-child bond will warm your heart and even make you cry in many scenes. Despite being behind a veil, Vidya flawlessly shows her discomfort when her son casually suggests to his father how to approach a troublesome woman: “Toh ussey utha lo na, daddy!” That’s an epic moment when he realizes that he must go above and beyond to dismantle the patriarchy in his family.
All that said, ‘Natkhat’ effectively combats patriarchal culture in a short 33 minute time frame. It is like a tribute to all the women who are locked in similar situations and who try to tear down the thick walls of the patriarchy. This one definitely deserves a watch.