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‘Haseena Parkar’ film review: Gangster Dawood Ibrahim’s sister gets the kid gloves treatment

Shraddha Kapoor plays the sister of the fugitive criminal in Apoorva Lakhia’s crime biopic.

There have already been many movies about gangster Dawood Ibrahim. Here is one about his sister Haseena Parkar, who allegedly ran the fugitive don’s criminal rackets in Mumbai in the 1990s and 2000s.

Apoorva Lakhia’s latest film depicts Parkar as an under-educated housewife who is guilty by association, and who becomes a gangland godmother because of circumstances and police harassment. Haseena Parkar completely flubs the opportunity to understand how women come to assume positions of power in the underworld, but given the track record of its director and his previously overblown dramas that glorify various crime lords, that’s hardly surprising.

Real-life siblings Shraddha and Siddhant Kapoor play the brother and sister whose different paths – domesticity versus crime – intersect over the years. Dawood is never named in the movie despite being identified in the closing credits, and is only referred to as “Bhai”.

Suresh Nair’s screenplay assumes that nobody in the audience has watched a Dawood Ibrahim origins story before, and re-runs the by-now-familar narrative of how Ibrahim overcame the beatings meted out by his disciplinarian (and honest) police constable father to assume power in the Mumbai underworld by slaughtering his opponents.

Haseena, it seems, wants none of this. Married to strapping restaurateur Ibrahim Parkar (Ankur Bhatia), Haseena is content playing the model wife and mother until circumstances compel her to use that old line to get to the head of the queue: “Do you know who I am?”

At the end of 123 minutes, the question remains unanswered.

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Haseena Parkar (2017).

After the March 12, 1993, bomb blasts in Mumbai, which are shown as being engineered single-handedly by Dawood without the help of the Pakistani intelligence services, the fugitive don’s ability to run his empire in India from afar is hampered. Haseena gets her chance to sit in a chair, meaningfully cross her legs, and settle various disputes. In a courtroom hearing that frames the narrative, public prosecutor Roshni Satam (Priyanka Setia) tries hard to prove that Haseena is not only an arbitrator, but also the local representative of her brother’s multi-crore enterprise. Haseena glowers from the dock, but since the movie is ambiguous about her actual role, the courtroom drama is an unintentional farce.

This is a movie that is aware of its redundancy. The avuncular judge overseeing the proceedings tires of Roshni Satam’s strictly non-legal arguments against Haseena and asks, are we writing a novel here?

The judge also delivers a verdict on the movie itself: “Enough is enough!”

Priyanka Setia’s tough prosecutor emerges as the best actor in a cast heaving with pantomime performances. Siddhant Kapoor is barely convincing as Dawood, and the movie does him no favours by saddling him with an unwieldy wig and numerous Caucasian escorts.

Shraddha Kapoor’s limited acting skills are painfully evident in a movie that requires her to do the heavy lifting. Whether retreating from her husband’s entreaties on her wedding night or channelling Marlon Brando from The Godfather in the courtroom scenes, Shraddha Kapoor’s ineptitude is plastered over every frame. Kapoor’s fair skin is lathered with a yellow-brown tinge and her cheeks are filled with padding to make the Brando tribute complete. But the character is too underwritten and the actor not skilled enough to make the portrayal work.

Haseena’s sepulchral drawl – she died of a heart attack in 2014 – gives this tale from the crypt many moments of unintended mirth. In its attempt to valourise Haseena as an innocent victim of destiny, the movie misses the opportunity to add another chapter to the ongoing saga of Dawood Ibrahim and his clan.

All is not lost. Haseena Parkar has been released in the same week as news emerged of the arrest of Dawood’s brother, Iqbal Kaskar, in extortion rackets. The Dawood Ibrahim sub-genre has been exhausted of all possibilities, but a biopic on Iqbal Kaskar is probably being written at this very moment.

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