Haseena Parkar review: A forgettable biopic

Not often do we see a film unintentionally making a meta joke, an unfortunate circumstance considering the film wears this conceit proudly on its sleeve.

Flim: Haseena Parkar; Director: Apoorva Lakhia; Cast: Shraddha Kapoor, Siddhanth Kapoor, Priyanka Setia

Not often do we see a film unintentionally making a meta joke, an unfortunate circumstance considering the film wears this conceit proudly on its sleeve. Director Apoorva Lakhia (screenplay by Suresh Nair) uses the courtroom and the court proceedings as a storytelling session for his biopic of Haseena Parkar, extortionist and sister of Dawood Ibrahim. The entry is grand. The hearing is about to begin but there is no sign of Haseena Parkar (Shraddha Kapoor).

The prosecutor’s assistant has given up. The newsrooms are wondering if it is Parkar’s power or the law’s weakness that has let her off the hook. We then see a convoy of Mumbai’s black and yellow taxis. Each with a burqa clad woman riding in the backseat. The convoy arrives in court and everyone wonders which one is Haseena Parkar. The real one stands up and walks towards the witness stand. The prosecutor (Priyanka Setia in a thankless role) begins her questioning. Parkar details her life.

The court wonders what is happening. Is this a case in court or a stage play? The judge and the defense wonder why the prosecution is not getting to the point. If the film had a collar, we would hold that tight and ask the same. Later in the film, the defense asks the prosecutor whether she’s arguing a case or dictating a news report. He is absolutely right. Haseena Parkar is a Wikipedia article at best. During an objection, the judge even proclaims that, unfortunately, he is paid to listen to both the sides. The audience and some 50-odd people around the courtroom are probably saying, “Not us!”

After Ashim Ahluwalia’s Daddy, we have another film set in the same world, featuring a murder in an elevator. Predictably, the worlds cross, with mention of a shooting in JJ Hospital involving Arun Gawli’s gang. But none of the merits of Ahluwalia’s more serious, intense meditation on character is borrowed.

The courtroom scenes suggest a pitch that is too old-fashioned. Haseena Parkar is ultimately inconsequential. There is no energy in the scenes, and editing has gone for a toss in some portions making the film seem disconnected. How did the shy, timid sister of Dawood Ibrahim, who, when asked to go home shoots back how a young girl like her can be expected to walk home alone, become the woman picking fights around the water pump?

Lakhia doesn’t bother. Instead he spends a long time on things people already know—the Babri Masjid attacks, the riots that followed and the bomb blasts of 1993. Shraddha Kapoor tries hard, with marbles in her mouth and regrettably, skin painted over in shades too close to dark brown. As if nepotism wasn’t enough, actors have one more thing to worry about. Why go for perfect casting when we can just go... blackish-face? Talking of nepotism, another Daddy throwback.

Siddhanth Kapoor plays Dawood Ibrahim making Daddy’s Farhan Akhtar look like an inspired choice. With a droopy face that reminds you of Shakti Kapoor, Siddhanth’s Dawood suggests more whine than menace. The siblings have no sense of timing. Whenever Haseena is on the phone with him—she in Mumbai and Dawood in Dubai—he is on a date. The film wants you to feel for Haseena—as disturbing as that is—but I was more worried about that date. Poor date. Poor film.

Rating: 1/5

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