"They Don't Teach Like They Used To." ♦ Grade D+
Looking back, having failed to catch this interesting-looking film at the 2015 Mumbai Film Festival due to BookMyShow's ridiculous ticketing system is not that unfortunate. That is because this social drama only looks good, but is surprisingly hollow.
Shyam (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is a teacher who lives with his wife in a small house near the school where he teaches math to secondary-class students. He also moonlights as a tutor at his home for students who appear to be both academically weak and mischievous. Perfect examples of such types are two boys named Kamal (Irfan Khan) and Mintu (Mohd Samad) who think that their class-cum- tuition mate Sandhya (Shweta Tripathi) is fond of Shyam, who seems to be the only teacher around. What follows is Kamal and Mintu's countless attempts at showcasing the former's love to Sandhya while she is absorbed by Shyam's mature persona due to the much-discussed natural effect of adolescence.
Director Shlok Sharma is surely not fooling around when it comes to hitting the point - the illicit relationship between teacher and student. How it originates is rather a touchy subject and Sharma fails there, causing the film to be a partial depiction of all that was intended. Although he makes the audience ask the question as to who the real haraamkhor (unprincipled) is - Shyam or Sandhya or someone else, there is this lack of depth which lingers throughout the film. Soon enough, it becomes certain who the unprincipled character is, but by then one more thing becomes certain - there is no explanation as to why happened what happened. Did Shyam make the effort despite being married? Or was it Sandhya who craved to know more about "adult love", fueled by issues at home?
One may try to decipher the answers to the questions, but then it would become a hike and you wouldn't gain any entertainment, unless you consider Kamal and Mintu and their hilarious activities. The screenplay is rather crisp with Siddique and Tripathi both holding waters, but someone here in the IMDb message boards gets it right when he says Siddiqui cannot alone drive a film forward. He is brilliant as his typecast character, but insufficient when it comes to being the main guy. Tripathi was lovable in Masaan (2015), but the credits tell me this is her debut film. Her innocent face and those telling eyes puts her perfectly into character as the naive 9th grader.
All in all, the film is decently made, but is without the ingredients that are essential to club social message with feasibility. Working on a story and putting it on screen without exploring its causes and factors is bad filmmaking. However, an afternoon watch on Netflix won't hurt, but make sure you watch it alone and not with your Indian parents.
BOTTOM LINE: Shlok Sharma's "Haraamkhor" is about an affair between a teacher and a student that provides limited information to talk about a widely relevant subject. Had there been a gender-swapped version, things would have been different, and that is the film's biggest flaw. Watch it on your free Netflix subscription.
Can be watched with a typical Indian family? NO