India Lockdown Movie Review: When director Madhur Bhandarkar announced that he was making a film called India Lockdown, I was worried, and I believe rightly so. The struggles that my country-people faced during the last two years with the surge of COVID-19 pandemic and due to a hastily-imposed, not-thought-out nationwide lockdown, especially the less-privileged and the poor, was a huge tragedy of unsurmountable losses. I was not sure that Bhandarkar, a once-acclaimed director now a mere shadow of what he used to be, could convey on the screen with the needed sensitivity. Now that I have seen India Lockdown, I do not stand corrected on this. OTT Releases Of The Week: Kartik Aaryan’s Freddy on Disney+ Hotstar, Prateik Babbar’s India Lockdown on ZEE5, Parth Samthaan's Kaisi Yeh Yaariyan 4 on Voot Select & More.

Like with most of his films, Madhur Bhandarkar uses various characters from various strata of society to show how the first lockdown affected the country. Or rather, certain citizens in the city of Mumbai. So we have a sex worker from Kamathipura, Mehrunissa (Shweta Basu Prasad), who sees her and co-workers' living affected by the lockdown with lack of customers. One thing good about this segment is Shweta Basu Prasad's performance, easily the best of the whole lot, and she rises above and beyond the trite writing and gawdy dialogues (like "uska tang khulega toh hi apne haath chicken ka taang aayega"... groan). Not that I am expecting the sex workers of Kamathipura to speak Gulzar. But this is a track that is least interested in depicting how these sex workers are coping with lack of customers, but rather how bask in the sleaziness of the whole situation and in eking bawdy humour in dealing with horny men.

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Horniness is also a major theme in what is India Lockdown's weakest segment, featuring two high-on-hormones college students Dev (Satvik Bhatia) and Palak (Zarin Shihab), who are desperate to lose their virginity. Opportunity arises when Dev's uncle is out of town, and he is asked to take care of this flat. However, before Palak could come there for their lusty rendezvous, lockdown is imposed leaving Dev all alone in that flat. He then befriends an airhostess Moon Alves (Aahana Kumra) from the neighbouring flat, and though she is older to him, they both can't ignore the growing physical attraction between them. And you really wonder why this track has a place in a film that is supposedly about depicting India's terrible distress during the lockdown phase. Was MB trying to pull off Love, Actually in Time of Corona?

Thankfully, no such horniness exist in the story of the elderly Nageshwar Rao (Prakash Belawadi), a widower who stays alone in his flat, with a pet dog for company, who insists on social distancing and wearing a mask even before the rest of the people around him scoff at his adamancy. His plans to visit his pregnant daughter (Hrishitaa Bhatt) goes awry when the lockdown is imposed. The idea of the segment was to depict how such forced loneliness can affect elderly citizens left alone to fend for themselves during the lockdown and worry about their mortality. However, the said expectations are least seen on screen, firstly thanks to the actor's stilted performance and secondly, just as I was about to feel invested in his arc, the movie cuts to other tracks.

The track that could have made India Lockdown the most impactful was about Madhav (Prateik Babbar) and Phoolmati (Sai Tamhankar), an impoverished couple living in Dharavi with their two kids, who were struggling even before the lockdown . Once the lockdown is imposed, the family has to face endless threats from debtors, and left with no option, they decide to leave their home and travel to their native place.

Madhur Bhandarkar tries to use this family to show the terrible plight of many such poor migrants, forced to walk hundreds of kilometres to reach their homes, after the lockdown made them jobless. There is a sad paradox in the film that when Moon lures Dev to her flat with promise of exquisite food she makes, Madhav and his family has to go through stale leftovers and even go through garbage to find something to eat. Perhaps, the sole point of poignance here, this track loses steam when it fails to cover the larger picture.

What, instead, I got to see here is the miscasting of Prateik Babbar in Madhav's role, a  kitschy treatment that does little to convey the terribleness of their plight and the strange decision to turn some of the migrants into lecherous perverts and asking no sort of accountability to why they were in such a situation in the first place.

That's something which was bothering me in the first place about India Lockdown. Why is this film made? If it was about being a grim depiction of an exodus (that no one dares to agree it is), then Bhandarkar's usual troop of caricatures and cliches does little justice to their saga. If it is about being a propaganda for the ruling party, India Lockdown thankfully avoids that route despite the director's known affinity for the ruling party. India Lockdown: Prateik Babbar Opens Up About His Role in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Social Drama.

If it was about seeking accountability for how an unplanned, unstrategised lockdown hurt millions of people in this country, then LOL! The movie doesn't even touch upon the struggles of people to get oxygen cylinders and hospital beds, one of the most tragic repercussions of the rise of coronavirus cases in India. Instead, we get jokes on the disease, and mentions of WhatsApp forwards that created fear and false ideas in the minds of people. In the end, it tries to give happy endings to most of its main characters (for one couple, a literal one!), and avoids mentioning how hundreds others died in the process. And say what, India Lockdown also ignores mentioning orchestrated spectacles like thali banging. It's as if the director knew that some nonsense doesn't need to be shown at all.

Final Thoughts

India Lockdown is no poignant take on one of most tragic eras that we are yet to recover from. Instead, it is a poorly written film that peels off the bandage and then plays around with the scars to make them bleed again, while never bothering to ask who caused the wounds in the first place. India Lockdown is streaming on Zee5.


(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Dec 02, 2022 09:33 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website