Natkhat Review: Vidya Balan's take on patriarchy and machismo conveys much-needed lesson on gender equality


Film: Natkhat

OTT: We Are One: A Global Film Festival

Cast: Vidya Balan and Sanika Patel

Director: Shaan Vyas

Rating: 4 Moons

Rape culture and gender discrimination are all too familiar for the Indian society but ever thought where does it all begin? While our society finally opening up to open dialogues about sex and abuse, we sure have not gotten very far with addressing its root cause. However, debutant writer-director Shaan Vyas attempts the theme of gender equality and comments on the male patriarchy and false machismo with Natkhat. Starring Vidya Balan, who is also the co-producer of the film (along with RSVP films), Natkhat shows more than expected in a run time of just 33 minutes. It is a step forward towards ending the life long societal norms of patriarchy and male chauvinism. 

One afternoon, seven-year-old Sonu (played by female child artiste Sanika Patel) casually mentions about a ghastly act that he committed at school. He talks about how if a girl doesn't agree with what a man is asking her to do, she should be punished. Horrified and determined to correct his course, his doting mother Surekha (Vidya Balan) decides that she will not let her 'Natkhat Lala' go down the same path as the other machismo-obsessed men in his family. She bares her scars, both psychological and physical, to her son every day after getting a beating from her husband the previous night. Through her bedtime stories, she teaches Sonu the true virtue of equality. Surekha gives him a lesson he will remember all his life - how recklessness towards girls can't be discounted.  

Recommended Read: We are both victims and perpetrators of patriarchy: Vidya talks about importance of consent in relationships with her short film 'Natkhat'

Balan’s bruises serve as strong reminders of how misogyny is also propagated by women (the silent, complicit mother-in-law, dragging her daughter-in-law into the vicious cycle of domestic violence) and why ‘boys will be boys’ indulgence attitude needs to be altered, as these 'boys' turn into women beater 'men' in later years. Raj Arjun as Vidya's husband, Atul Tiwari as her father-in-law and Sparsh Shrivastav as the younger brother-in-law serve as the perfect example in this scenario. 

Natkhat turns disturbing, tragic, innocent, and imparts the much-needed lesson on gender equality in a short while. It focuses on a topic that is not discussed much but should be. While the theme is not new, Vidya established herself as the backbone of the film. As Surekha, Vidya pays less heed to her village belle dialect but speaks volumes through her eyes. Her conflicting emotions define her character arc, which sends across a bold message in a subtle manner. 

Perfectly complementing Vidya is her on-screen son Sonu aka Ms. Sanika Patel. A fairly interesting pick by casting director Annukampa - to choose a girl to play a boy trapped in patriarchy and bringing to fore an issue based on male chauvinism via a female artist. 

Written jointly by Annukampa Harsh and Shaan Vyas, the film captures the correct essence in a short frame of time, leaving you yearning for more. Director Shaan has deftly passed a powerful lesson, allowing the audience to stay invested in the film and its premise. Background music by Karan Gour matches the tonality of the film and cinematography by Sachin Pillai and editing by Shweta Venkat Mathew brings out the soothing mother-son story in chilling circumstances. 

Natkhat is for all the little boys out there who need to be explained from a young age why being a 'Natkhat' is not a good idea. 

PeepingMoon gives Natkhat 4 Moons