Cast: Bhumi Pednekar, Sanjay Mishra, Sai Tamhankar, Aditya Shrivastava, Surya Sharma, Chittaranjan Tripathy, Durgesh Kumar
Where: Streaming on Netflix
Rating: 2.5 stars
Bhakshak, meaning predator, showcases a journalist’s travails against the system to bring the predators to book.
Set in Bihar, the narrative follows Vaishali Singh, a determined journalist played by the competent Bhumi Pednekar, as she delves into the dark underbelly of the vicious shelter home system, especially housing girls. The story brings to the fore how the girls are abused, exploited, and even murdered.
The film is intended to be provocative, igniting the call for ethics, principles, and morals today. While the subject matter is undeniably significant, the execution of this film falls short, resulting in an unsatisfactory viewing experience.
To begin with, the film is perfunctorily mounted. It relies on tired tropes and cliches to drive the narrative forward. The plot is talk heavy, clunky, with undramatic and sluggish pacing. The heinous laughs and crass conversations among the male supporting cast take centre stage, making the entire set-up appear forced.
Also, keeping in mind today’s media scenario, the script is a bit basic and outdated. It’s only after the mid-point that - there is a mention of social media platforms. While Vaishali’s tenacity to pursue the wrongdoings is commendable, the story lacks nuance and passively provides meaningful insights into the complexities of the issues.
Pednekar delivers a solid performance, capturing Vaishali’s passion and resolve while working in collaboration with Bhaskar (Sanjay Mishra) at Koshish News, a local broadcast channel, but her character lacks depth and development, feeling more like a generic archetype middle-class, married woman pursuing a career in B- town than a fully realized passionate individual.
The entire cast is sincere, and they deliver what is expected, of them. Sanjay Mishra - as Bhaskar, Vaishali’s colleague, is underutilised, and Sai Tamhankar’s character, Jasmeet Gaur, the Superintendent of Police, works as the deus ex machina in the plot.
Furthermore, the supporting characters, be it the politician, the caretaker of the Girls Shelter Home, the henchmen, or anyone else, are all stereotypical, serving as mere plot devices rather than fully fleshed-out individuals. None of them stand apart. So is the case with the victims.
Visually, with dark tones, congested and lacklustre aesthetic frames, Kumar Sourabh’s cinematography is competent, where Munawwarpur and Patna are fleetingly captured.
The poignant lyrics of the song Ganga and the background score lift the spirit of the narrative, but by then, it is too late to transcend mediocrity, which ultimately undermines its impact, leaving the viewers with a sense of missed potential rather than genuine engagement.
Overall, Bhakshak is a well-intentioned film. In the end, as one of the characters says, “Baki aap samajdhar hain.”