Ardh Review: Rajpal Yadav’s film has its heart in the right place, yet suffers from poor execution
Ardh starring Rajpal Yadav and Rubina Dilaik in key roles is streaming on an OTT platform from the 10th of June.
Director: Palash Muchhal
Cast: Rajpal Yadav, Rubina Dilaik, Hiten Tejwani, Kulbhushan Kharbanda
Streaming platform: Zee5
I have never been to Mumbai. But after watching countless Hindi films and reality show auditions on television, I now know this like the back of my hand: it’s the city of dreams. And while one in a hundred dreams and ambitions see fulfillment, others befriend perseverance, disappointment, and failure, as they keep on hustling. Rajpal Yadav’s new film ‘Ardh’ also tells the story about a man and his dream: to become a movie actor. In doing so, it touches upon many subjects, and lets viewers get a glimpse of hustlers who make it, almost. Hence, the name ‘Ardh’, meaning ‘half’.
Ardh follows the story of Shiva Kumar (played by Rajpal Yadav): a lower-middle-class man who has years of theatre experience behind him, but he wants to feature on the silver screen someday. However, the movie business is brutal and auditioning for roles won’t feed a family. To make ends meet, he takes up odd jobs like washing utensils at an eatery, working at a construction site, sticking posters on metropolitan walls, or being spot boy on sets. Amid this, he lives his dream of being an actor – as he dresses up in a saree and gets in the shoes of a transgender ‘Parvati’, who earns money at traffic signals, and goes about blessing strangers. Only two people know about his secret: his supportive wife Madhu (played by Rubina Dilaik) and his friend Satya (played by Hiten Tejwani).
Director Palash Muchhal and his story have their hearts in the right places. He attempts to touch upon various themes in his narrative about a struggling actor who has not yet received the recognition he deserves. There’s commentary on class and caste privilege and how they influence one’s ability to dream. One also sees how the inner hierarchy of the showbiz is at work, how good talent falls prey to superficial body standards, the workings of nepotism, and much more.
The plot of Ardh justifies a man playing a transgender because the narrative provides good reason and context. But sadly, the same cannot be said for many films which have tried their hands at representing transgenders on celluloid. Moreover, Muchhal’s lens does not use Parvati’s character to dehumanise the community, or to evoke distasteful humour at their expense. The treatment is rather humane, sensible, and dignified. There are no unnecessary remarks veiled as comedy and that’s a welcome change.
However, the question remains: will the portrayal of a man pretending to be a transgender to earn a living, contribute towards a stereotype and bias against the community? Will suspicion and the urge to term transgenders plain ‘lazy’ be enabled, when in fact, there are next to no job opportunities for them? A more nuanced treatment of Shiva’s pretention to be one of the community, would have added much more value to the narrative.
Apart from this, the film also suffers from poor execution. At certain points, the screenplay feels disconnected, as if we are watching episodes in a series and each begins anew. There’s a song and an early 2000’s style dance sequence featuring Shiva and Madhu, and maybe its only goal was to increase the runtime of the film when there was nothing much left to say.
Talking about the performances, Rajpal Yadav surely leaves a mark in Ardh. His act feels as earnest as the character who is aspiring to be an actor. He is very much responsible for portraying Parvati with sensibility and compassion. When he is in the four walls of his house, he is the man, and as soon as he steps out in a saree, he transforms into Parvati, who diligently blesses strangers and couples at the traffic point. Yadav, who has been entertaining audiences with his supporting roles, takes centre stage in this film, much like living his character’s dream, and he does not disappoint.
However, Rubina Dilaik as Madhu feels like a talent whose potential was only scraped at surface level. The actress’ role as a working woman who is equally suffering to bring food to the table, while her husband steps out as someone he is not, could have been and should have been explored more, and this came forth as a disappointment.
Hiten Tejwani as Shiva’s friend Satya too has nothing much on his plate, but he delivers a decent performance, and is pleasing to watch, like always.
Veteran actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda also has a cameo in the film.
Watch Ardh's trailer below:
All in all, Ardh is an enjoyable watch that will tug at your hearts despite its shortcomings. Watch it on Zee5 from June 10th.
A content writer for 3 years, Priyakshi channels her love for everyth...