A Thursday review: As extreme as a Swara Bhasker political tweet but equally ineffective

No disrespect to Yami Gautam Dhar, Neha Dhupia, but writer-director Behzad Khambata’s film is another in line that goes through the roof while dealing with a grave issue.

Rating: 1 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

It’s a bright Thursday. A pretty woman wishes her criminal lawyer husband a good day as he leaves for work. She then proceeds to do her duty, running a playschool from her home. Wonder how the municipal corporation gave the permission to operate a school from home? Well, that is Bollywood for you.

The cute kids arrive at school. It’s going to be Naina’s birthday tomorrow. Barely five minutes into the film, and the lovable teacher dials the local South Mumbai [Colaba] police station threatening to kill her 16 students. Welcome to a crucial, eventful day in the life of Naina Jaiswal [Yami Gautam Dhar]. The innocent kids aren’t even aware what their teacher is up to.  A hostage crisis naturally throws up demands, while the security forces look to troubleshoot without any casualty.

On the face of it, writer-director Behzad Khambata’s A Thursday [2022] appears to be a novel story. Leave aside Bollywood, it’s hard to recollect a woman at the center of a hostage plot in a Hollywood film too. The novelty though ends there for the rest of the film plays out in a very predictable manner. At the end of the crisis, Khambata’s film is another in line that goes through the roof while dealing with a grim reality that’s plagued this nation for donkey’s years.

Sorry Mr. Khambata! Apologies to Yami Gautam Dhar, Neha Dhupia, but Bollywood’s radical, extreme approach to dealing with a cancerous crime is unhealthy for the victims, the society and the nation at large. The extreme here stems from the outrageous action by Jaiswal to correct an old wrong.  Hey lady, two wrongs never make a right. No one hears until you make a noise. That’s how Khambata justifies his protagonist’s actions in the end. There might be the odd merit in those arguments, but it doesn’t really cut any ice with us.

It’s not the cause, but the fault lies in the methods that filmmakers like Khambata use to address the key issue. We saw a similar thing in Blank [2019]. [Didn’t that blank out at the box-office?] A protagonist taking law into one’s hand, holding people/state to ransom is perhaps a done to death trope – A Wednesday! [2008], Madaari [2016]. Extreme, over-the-top trouble shooting like a Simmba [2018] might draw whistles from the masses, but it does little to heal the wounds of the real victims.

Shockingly, Khambata even drags the Prime Minister of the country into this mess. PM Maya Rajguru [Dimple Kapadia] is on a visit to the city when she is astounded by the actions of the hostile teacher, who demands to have a tête-à-tête, rather a ‘chai pe charcha’ with her. [Pun intended] Oh. the Bollywood anxiety often corrupts its logical thinking. Here is a Prime Minister who is easily bypassed by her secretary into taking key calls pertaining to the hostage crisis. The PM is often accompanied by this lone secretary/PA.  Wish the director had cared to watch a footage of the entourage that follows a PM of any country.

Then we have a heavily pregnant Naina Dhupia playing ACP Catherine Alvarez who chucks her health for duty. Bravo Bollywood police.  Khambata throws in inspector Javed Khan [not the former Mumbai Commissioner of Police] into the hostage crisis.  Khan [Atul Kulkarni] is clueless as to why this school teacher has demanded to speak only to him? Khan once had a relationship with his now boss Alvarez. There’s Naina’s criminal lawyer husband Rohit Mirchandani [Karanvir Sharma], who, too, is clueless as to what has got onto his beloved wife?  The presence of these characters is enough to suggest where this story is heading.

The role of the police, judiciary at tackling grave crimes is rightly questioned. But here is another film that gives a shallow portrayal of the media, yet a certain section has no qualms over the stereotyping. Maya Sarao, who was a revelation in Thappad [2020], is insufferable as the caricaturist news anchor Shalini Guha.  Media outlets are divided on political lines, but hey, hasn’t the media played an active role while reporting on heinous crimes?

Art is subjective. No disrespect to others, but the cheering of such radical ideas by some is perhaps setting a dangerous precedent.  We already live in a polarised society. The daily political mudslinging on media and social media has furthered the divide. We are so consumed by hate, ego, that some don’t hesitate to justify violent acts. Few social ills require us to speak in a collective voice. Sadly, content like A Thursday have reduced the cause to a noise. That anger needs to be controlled, and that collective energy has to be channeled in the right direction. Films like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri [2017], Mom [2017], Article 15 [2019] have dealt with the subject in a sensitive way.

No amount of great acting, could change our view of A Thursday.  And there isn’t one here. Yami Gautam Dhar displays familiar frailties. Neha Dhupia, Dimple Kapadia and Atul Kulkarni, too, aren’t very inspiring. One man who gains respect is Boloram Das. Viewers of Sony Liv would recall him as the maniac from Welcome Home [2020]. Here Das is the unlucky driver who is held hostage by Naina.   

A Thursday isn’t even vigilantism for it risks the lives of innocent children. Our discontentment with the film isn’t on any moral ground per se, it’s simply the myopic, impractical approach to addressing a grave issue. In the end, Khambata’s film is as extreme as a Swara Bhasker political tweet but equally ineffective. No disrespect Swara. Nothing personal here.

A Thursday [2022] is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.


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