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Times of India
Story: Frustrated with lack of job opportunities back home in Punjab, former judo champion Jeet (Barkha Madan) in the hope of a better future decides to go to Canada, where her brother moved to, few years ago. With no money at her disposal to travel legally, she seeks help of a local trafficker, who tricks her into smuggling.
Review: Surkhaab highlights the plight of immigrants, rural Indians and the circumstances that drives them to risk their lives to make a living abroad.
Handled with great maturity, the Indo-Canadian film touches a chord for its authentic execution. The characters are real and so are their problems. Also, unlike most films, where the protagonist could have easily been portrayed as the victim, this film is an exception. Jeet is feisty and smart. Though not exposed to other culture or people, she holds her nerve and plucks up courage to fight for herself and her family keeping her dignity intact.
Sanjay Talreja needs to be applauded for making his characters look believable, except for a villain's sidekick, who seems too good to be a crook. Otherwise, you can relate to the characters, their woes and can imagine what they must be going through. The thought of what could happen if you were stuck in a similar situation as Jeet is bound to cross your mind and that speaks volumes about the film's impact.
Credit must also go to Barkha Madan for doing complete justice to her role. From being sensitive and vulnerable to brave and powerful, she defines her character beautifully. Other actors are equally competent.
Like Memento, the film unveils itself layer by layer (scenes shuttle between past and present) keeping the suspense element high. Had the second half been stronger, this would have been one of the most hard-hitting films on immigrants. Sadly, the thriller element overshadows drama and somewhere it dampens the pace and the plot.
Nonetheless, Surkhaab is extremely relevant and a poignant tale of survival that deserves to be seen.
Crossing over gently
The more patriotically inclined will tell you that there's no such thing as Canadians in Canada. Or that Toronto ('Tronto') is a swim away from Bhatinda. But tell that to Jeet-feisty Judo champ and, notably for her widowed mother, unmarried who encounters Punjab's overseas capital with the wide-eyed reluctance of Rani from Queen.
Barkha Madan, whose face still haunts high-risedwellers (in and as Ramgopal Varma's Bhoot), invokes empathy as this illegal immigrant; one of many sorry 'stories' walking through Customs with ill-fated hope because in her possession is a bag whose contents Jeet should've checked as soon as she became a mule for shady trafficker Kuldeep (Suri). But then, even Tom Hanks didn't open that package in Cast Away. This bag leads to kidnappings, ubiquitous crooks and repeated phone calls, tilting the tonal scale from Aa Ab Laut Chalein to a realistic document on migration and the human spirit.
Director Sanjay Talreja employs a time-jumping narrative that connects Jeet's chaotic predicament to events in India leading up to her departure. The further she sinks, the more we learn about her. Miss Madan's uncertain gait and worried face conveys a lot about Jeet's childhood without flashbacks. The abrupt way she must leave her mother is heartbreaking; familiar for those forced to abandon homes for an invisible future. Sync sound, gloomy climate and live locations further amplify the intensity of her situation.
Sumit Suri the standout in a debacle called Babloo Happy Hai continues his crude Jatt act, equipping Kuldeep's doofus ways with an appropriate slyness. The supporting cast, a motley group of displaced nationalities, engages even when bag-vati causes characters (and writer) to spin in circles.
Many Indians leave in search of a better life, convinced that a dollarwielding pauper is more respectable than a rupee-wielding pauper.
Surkhaab exposes their naivety, albeit with dignity, despite an awry third act that threatens to dilute the strength of its hero. As a frustrated Kuldeep wryly notes, Jeet eventually lives up to her name. In a way, this film does too.
Frustrated with lack of job opportunities back home in Punjab, former judo champion Jeet (Barkha Madan) in the hope of a better future decides to go to Canada, where her brother Pargat (Nishant Bahl) moved to, few years ago. With no money at her disposal to travel legally, she seeks help of a local trafficker, who tricks her into smuggling. His nephew Kuldeep (Sumit Suri) ensures that Jeet carries a suspicious bag along to Canada and delivers it to him once she reaches there. Jeet reaches Canada and manages to pass through the airport with her illegal documents but the fear of being caught haunts her. She meets Pargat at the restaurant he works for. They go to his Canadian home, which he shares with other illegal immigrants. The same night, Pargat is kidnapped by a bunch of unidentified goons. Jeet feels helpless but cannot call the cops either given her situation. The kidnappers demand the bag that Jeet is to give Kuldeep. Thus begins a cat and mouse game between Jeet and the goons. Jeet soon realises that Kuldeep is behind this and wants the bag to be given to his goons to make his chacha feel that the bag was stolen. That way he gets all the diamonds without having to share it with him. Jeet informs chacha and he finally accepts that Kuldeep has been fooling him. Kuldeep gets exposed and jeet manages to deliver the bag to her chacha. He offers to give her a diamond for her honesty. She takes it for a friend, who helped her in Canada.Spoiler alert! Please do not read the following plot summary if you have not seen the film.
Surkhaab, the film which is a story of an illegal immigrant and a carrier who is on the run in a world alien from her, released in theatres on May 22, 2015.
Here are some responses the film received on Twitter...
One movie u must watch " Surkhaab" It talks about illegal immigrants in Canada, n their miserable n uncertain life. Could hv bn better tho.