Cast: Usha Jadhav, Sachin Khedekar, Girish Kulkarni, Rajeshwari Sachdev
Director: Aruna Raje
Rating: 3 Moons
Produced by Priyanka Chopra under her banner Purple Pebble Pictures and directed by Aruna Raje, Firebrand deals with potent feminist issues. National Award-winning actress Usha Jadhav plays Sunanda, the main protagonist who is a feisty divorce lawyer. She has risen above personal childhood trauma to become a successful divorce attorney willing to do anything to ensure justice for her clients- ill-treated, physically abused, abandoned wives. However, her impeccable professional track record is insufficient to rid her of a traumatic rape that she faced as a schoolgirl. The demons of her mind weigh heavily on her marriage as well.
Firebrand derives much of its strength from the impeccable performance by Usha. She does not miss a single cue in the film and is perfect yet measured in depicting her emotional turmoil. However, for the most part of the film, she is torn between being a victim, a survivor and a saviour. Her character provides interesting paradoxes but the title of the film is a bit of a misnomer as we never get to see her unleash her fury in court.
Girish Kulkarni plays Usha’s husband who is an important stakeholder of Usha’s trauma. His character is blameless and extremely supportive of a wife who is still grappling with the demons of her childhood. His performance is measured and up to par. However, since he is not the central figure his character has certain limitations and Girish performs well within the set boundaries.
Rajeshwari Sachdev plays the perfect foil to Usha’s character. Her divorce with Sachin Khedekar becomes a part of Usha’s journey. She is a former model who has a volatile and fiery temperament. She is married to her adman husband played by Khedekar whom she suspects to be a womanizer. Interestingly, Firebrand deals with women subjected to grievous wrongs but the two principal male characters are above blame. They go out of their way to be supportive and not to aggravate matters with their wives who are more often calling the shots.
It is Sunanda’s diabolical life that forms the crux of the narrative. Outside, she is the fiery divorce lawyer hell-bent on getting justice for her clients but at home she is a “dark-skinned Dalit girl” with a harrowing experience that she can’t seem to forget or get out of her head. However, she is not a sympathy seeker and finds her own ways to overcome her difficulties. Her inability to experience sexual fulfilment with her husband because of her traumatic past and how she surmounts the obstacles that come to her way forms the crux of Firebrand.
Firebrand streams on Netflix from February 22. It is not just another feminist film where feminism is a mere fad or a tool to bash men. It serves as the strength a woman needs to assert herself in the face of a problem or adversity that only she can solve. Her husband does stand by her but she is no damsel in distress waiting for her Prince Charming to come to rescue her. The battle is hers alone to fight and win and she is adequately capable to quash the demons of her past under her foot.
PeepingMoon gives Firebrand 3 Moons.