Hunterrr fails to live up to its audacious premise

Mandar Ponkshe (Gulshan Devaiah), Hunterrr’s hero, wants to fuck around all his life — more literally, less figuratively: He’s an incorrigible sex addict first, an unambitious 30-something later. Mandar doesn’t see any value in relationships and, as a result, marriage or raising a family. He equates satiating carnal desires to taking a dump — both are, after all, bodily needs. Why should we get so worked up about the former and not the latter? His friends advise Mandar to get married, settle down, and forget about a plan that can only exist in a parallel world. We gradually understand what Mandar truly wants: to stay young all his life (whether having indiscriminate sex is the means to that end is debatable, but Mandar’s mannerisms surely give away that his battles are bigger and weightier than his fluffy demeanour: he’s fighting against time). Mandar eventually decides to get hitched. And since he’s ageing, his only resort is an arranged marriage. But we want to understand Mandar, and the life situations that made him the kind of man he’s today.

Hunterrr then, as if to answer these questions, begins juggling three distinct periods of Mandar’s life: his years of adolescence and growing up (1989 onwards), his days of trying to find a suitable bride (2014 onwards) and, finally, the “Present Day” (a particular night in 2015), when he’s engaged to be married but still doubting the whole idea. Harshvardhan Kulkarni and Prajwal Joshi (Hunterrr’s director and screenwriter) set themselves a difficult challenge (both with respect to content and form): to explore a sex addict’s mindset by observing his entire life. And they don’t give in to easy temptations — by either suffocating the film with trying-hard-to-be-funny salacious innuendos or treating Mandar like a lesser person just because he’s enamoured with a desire so commonplace and juvenile. (Kulkarni and Joshi’s apprehensions are not difficult to imagine: “How do we make a film about a sex addict? Aren’t most men, at some level, besotted with the idea of sex?”)

Hunterrr poster

But there’s that thing called execution, too. As we see Mandar flit from one B-grade film’s screening to the other and a few years later, in the late ’90s, from one “casual” relationship to the next, we want to know what he thinks about the women he sleeps with. Because we can see what they think of him — the first girl, Parul (Veera Saxena), falls for Mandar, and is distraught to find out that she was being cheated on; the second girl (a married woman), Jyotsna (Sai Tamhankar), looks as easy going as Mandar, to begin with, but we see an endearing scene later, where she’s carefully folding the bed sheets after their romping gets over. Mandar, in turn, boasts about his sexual exploits to his friends, and lets them slyly speak to those girls over the phone. Sure, we get the implication: Mandar doesn’t feel a thing for them. But is that completely true? Not really. Because the film gives us a few scenes that have Mandar sharing a laugh with these women and enjoying their company beyond the sex. The director, however, doesn’t deem it necessary to further examine Mandar — which could have been okay; film characters needn’t necessarily know what they want — but it later becomes a problem when the film is trying to sell a Mandar who wants to change because he’s in love.

Moreover, it’s difficult to buy that answer because, again, nothing in the film convinces us of that significant, weighty transformation. And this problem persists throughout and ails the film because Kulkarni doesn’t know his hero well enough. Kulkarni also can’t sustain an entire film around his whims; Hunterrr’s lead is so inconsistent that after a point he begins to tire you. The film doesn’t help him either: subplots awkwardly crop up, diluting the story’s focus; plenty of songs, incapable of building a mood, are shoehorned in the second half; even the heroine, Tripti (Radhika Apte), doesn’t have a distinct voice. The characters’ indecisions are not as much of a problem as their transformations by the film’s end, which comes across as too easy, too convenient, even unbelievable. After a point, Hunterrr falls to that terrible movie disease: “Randomitis” — the film jumps subplots (and characters) without establishing and, consequently, justifying them. Hunterrr is a sub standard fare for sure, but that’s not very upsetting. What is really troubling about the film is that its failures are uninspiring and banal.

An edited version of this review was published in The Sunday Guardian.

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