The most moving moment in Shlok Sharma’s “Haraamkhor” comes in the final scene where two people, united in their grief and having undergone a strange feeling of catharsis, come to terms with their situation. The entire film leads up to this point.
When the ending comes, it is more than effective, giving you a better sense of the two characters and their pain than the film has managed to until that point. Sharma chooses a subject that has fascinated filmmakers for years – a romance between teacher and student (“Notes on a Scandal”, “A Teacher”), and sets it in a dusty town in Madhya Pradesh.
Sandhya (Shweta Tripathi) is a gullible 15-year-old schoolgirl who is inexplicably smitten with her school teacher Shyam (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). The man in question is a singularly slimy character who thinks nothing of hitting his students, passing lewd remarks at colleagues and cheating on his wife. But for Sandhya, coming from a broken family and living with her negligent father, Shyam is the epitome of romance.
So taken is she with her teacher that she is blind to the affections of Kamal (Irfan Khan), a young boy who professes undying love for Sandhya, and is aided loyally in his quest for her love by his friend Mintu (played wonderfully by Mohd Samad).
As Sandhya and Shyam embark on their licentious relationship, we see their story through Kamal and Mintu’s eyes and this proves to be an effective narrative device. The two boys spy on the two lovers as they meet surreptitiously, exchange secret glances, and in many ways they shape the turns that Sandhya and Shyam’s story takes.
The director makes no attempt to redeem Shyam, nor paint Sandhya as a woman wronged – she knows what she is getting into. She sometimes manipulates Shyam better than he manipulates her. But perhaps because of the many censor cuts, or perhaps because Sharma doesn’t always have a hold of his movie, we never quite get a full picture of the story.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui has made a career out of playing the evil man, so he gets into his role in “Haraamkhor” with ease, bringing the right kind of sliminess to Shyam’s character that will make you despise him. Tripathi as Sandhya is wonderful too, but it is Irfan Khan and Mohd Samad, the two boys who play Kamal and Mintu, who are the two standout performers in the film.
Editing by David Lalmalsawma