Bhakshak is based on the infamous incident that took place in a shelter home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar where several young girls, aged between 7-17, were sexually abused. The case came to light in 2018 when a report was submitted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to the Bihar Social Welfare Department. The report mentioned details of allegations of sexual abuse of minor girls at the shelter home which was run by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti. When the police acted on the report, it was found that everyone, from the caretaker of the said institute, to people from all walks of the government machinery were involved in the nefarious activities. The caretaker was found guilty by the courts and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The government later vowed to put up stricter norms for the welfare of young homeless children.Vaishali Singh (Bhumi), is a journalist running a small-time independent news channel called Koshish News in Patna, along with her cameraman Bhaskar Sinha (Sanjay Mishra). An informant (Durgesh Kumar), informs them about a report submitted to the Ministry of Welfare which hasn’t been acted upon. When they investigate, they find out that the man running the institute, Bansi Sahu (Aditya Srivastava), has been directly responsible for the heinous activities. He seems to be politically well connected and hence no action has been taken against him.Vaishali and Bhaskar organise a relentless media campaign against the wrongdoers, posting facts as and when they get them. Their big break comes when a girl, who was previously working as a cook at the institute, gives them the insider details and later even agrees to turn witness. This prompts the judiciary to finally take action against the perpetrators.The film is not for the fainthearted. Some scenes are decidedly visceral and aren’t easy to watch. That said, it boggles the mind that Vaishali is the only reporter chasing the story, and that senior police officer Gurmeet (Sai Tamhankar) dumps the onus of investigation on Vaishali, rather than doing it herself. Strange indeed. The film seemed to be shot on location and the claustrophobic bylanes of a small-town, as well as the jail-like conditions of the institute, highlights the horror of it all more profoundly.Aditya Srivastava, who is always seen in a positive light in films and TV makes for a terrific villain. The scene where he intimidates Vaishali and Bhaskar with a smile on his face is worth watching twice. He holds court with his coterie, and casually discusses rape and torture like he’s discussing the weather. The crimes mean nothing to him because he doesn’t consider the victims to be human. Sai Tamhankar makes her presence felt in her brief role. Sanjay Mishra, who looks the very image of a small-town journalist who knows everything there is to know, reiterates the fact yet again as to why he’s considered one of the best actors in India. Bhumi Pednekar is back to doing what she knows best. She’s the conscious keeper of the film and makes you realise that if we really want a change, then we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the things which are happening around her. She makes you believe she’s a bloodhound out on a hunt, sniffing the trail of the crime with much gusto and doing her best to capture the criminals. Her honest portrayal keeps you hooked to the film.Watch the hard-hitting film for its message and for the display of superior acting by the entire ensemble cast.
Trailer : Bhakshak
Renuka Vyavahare, February 9, 2024, 4:02 PM IST
Story: An independent TV reporter Vaishali Singh (Bhumi Pednekar) and her only colleague Bhaskar (Sanjay Mishra) stir up a hornet’s nest. In pursuit of truth, these small-town journalists strive to expose a human trafficking racket in Bihar.
Even as the rich and powerful are busy toeing the line, director Pulkit hopes to celebrate the unsung warriors of smaller towns. They might exude a certain naivete, but they dare to speak truth to power. He addresses growing apathy in a shrinking social media world.
The subject is important and the lead performance sincere, but execution has a 90’s melodramatic hangover. Everyone mouths Bansi Sahu’s name at least 100 times in the movie and he doesn’t seem as menacing or influential as he is made to look like. Strangely, everyone has access to him at all times. The investigative-crime thriller lacks both investigation and thrill, making the film more exhausting and less gripping. The storytelling lacks a sense of urgency or even fear that are essential to make a hard-hitting issue like this deeply engaging. At no point are you emotionally invested in the characters or their trauma. Vaishali’s supportive husband too doesn’t get enough scope to express his inhibitions.
At one point a lady supercop tells Vaishali, “My hands are tied. You get me the evidence and I will make arrests.” Cops are also supposed to gather evidence and journos are supposed to inform and alert society through their responsible reportage. Passing the buck solely on journos doesn’t work, as freedom of press is stifled, nor do they have the power of uniform.
Bhumi Pednekar has emerged as one of the most bankable performers, who has consistently portrayed strong female characters. The Marathi girl from Mumbai has her north Indian accent on point and it is her fearless presence that fights patriarchy in the movie more than the writing. Sanjay Mishra feels wasted and CID fame Aditya Srivastava isn’t as convincing as the evil antagonist. Sai Tamhankar makes a crucial special appearance, but her character lacks nuanced writing.
Bhakshak’s fight for justice feels long-winded and simplistic. You feel for the plight of the girls trapped but the film does little to embolden that fire in your belly.