Coming from the streets of Paharganj, the movie depicts the story of Laura Costa (Lorena Franco), who comes to Paharganj in search of her missing boyfriend, Robert. She eventually starts questioning why people go to Paharganj in the first place, and is introduced to an array of characters. Gautam Menon (Brijesh Jayarajan), a basketball coach, who desperately wants his team to win against Jitendar Tomar’s (Karan Soni). Munna (Salman Khan), a local goon, who wants to be the king of Paharganj through illegal means like selling of drugs. Despite being so different from each other and leading separate lives, the stories of all these characters are somehow connected.
“Paharganj” manages to showcase the world of drug cartels, sexual violence, PTSD and corruption. This film doesn’t really have a plot as such, but a series of scenes. The film starts off well, but it doesn’t take long for it to feel stretched. The story has been dragged beyond a reasonable extent, especially the part where Laura goes about searching for Robert. It’s tedious and should have been trimmed down. However, their is still few moments worth praising. Certain scenes succeed at delving us into this world, through the eyes of an outsider, however we wish that there was more focus. Ultimately the filmmakers end up biting off far more than they can chew. It’s evident that the makers sought to shock and awe us with the use of sexual elements. There’s an insertion of a ‘sex baba’ running a strange Osho-esque cult, who appears and disappears without adding anything to the story. The film also hovers over basketball rivalries for a minute and makes a reference to the prevalance of the sport in Paharganj, but that is purely incidental. Eventually the makers paint themselves into a tight corner, ending the film with an eyeroll-inducing denouncement. The screenplay could have been much better.
Technically the film is impressive. The cinematography and the overall visuals add to the seedy, dark and raunchy affect required. The production design is bang on. The sound design adds to the flavor. The editing, however, could have been more crisp. The performances are all bland. Nobody stands out.
If you enjoy films that delve into the dark side, then this film is worth a watch, however, it doesn’t show us anything new. But still, for what it is, it is a good exploration of an underbelly.
Rating: 3 stars