A beautiful girl walks through an empty village to the stream nearby, sits on a flat stone and bathes (fully-clothed) in the said stream. She then walks, her clothes soaked, to the temple of Goddess Zari, before the village wakes up for work. If you haven’t started cringing from the graphic onslaught yet, director Raju Meshram makes sure you are embarrassed to the core with what transpires on screen throughout the first half of the film. We felt bad for the children who were dragged to the cinema hall by their parents.
The start of Zari is nothing you’d expect from a film based on true events. We are introduced to the eponymous Zari (Namrata Gaikwad) in the first scene. She belongs to the downtrodden tribal community that resides in a village on the border of Maharashtra, Telangana and Chhattisgarh. Zari, like the rest of the tiny hamlet, works in the forest, for contractor Shyam Reddy (Milind Shinde). Reddy is a fearsome man and is proud of the fact that he has fathered almost all the children in the village. Until Mahesh Babu (Aniket Kelkar) makes an entry. The light-eyed, sweet-talking Mahesh wins over Zari, who has so far resisted Reddy’s sexual advances.
But this film, as we mentioned, is based on true events, and not everything black and white in real life. The post-interval twists and turns are so fast-paced that it makes your head spin. If the first half is bad, Meshram deserves applause for keeping the rest of the film on track with what is the whole point of the story. But we have some questions for Meshram. Is it necessary to show close-ups of all the sexual assaults to establish that a villain is a terrible man? Is it necessary for the bad guy to be a dark-skinned one?
In the acting department, as is obvious, Milind Shinde does a great job as the sleazy, horrible Reddy. We just hope that someone gives the poor guy some good-guy roles soon. Namrata Gaikwad does justice to her role of the strong, yet naïve Zari. Aniket Kelkar too is okay as the Chhattisgarhi Mahesh, but he switches from Hindi-mixed Marathi to urban Marathi dialect too much, making you wonder, where does his character originate from? Producer Tukaram Bidkar is also decent as Zari’s father Deva.