Art & Entertainment

'Safed' On Zee5 Movie Review: Meera Chopra, Abhay Varma Fail To Leave A Mark In This Sensitive Story

Starring Meera Chopra, Barkha Bisht, and Abhay Varma, 'Safed' is now streaming on ZEE5. Is this complex story worth watching? Or does it get too tied up within itself? Read the full review to find out.

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A still from 'Safed'
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Film producer Sandeep Singh dipped his toes in direction with ‘Safed.’ The plot of the movie had created significant buzz online. The film gained attention because it was not a regular romantic story. It took two people from two oppressed and ostracized groups of society and brought them together. This unique choice of characters piqued everyone’s interest. The film starred debutante Abhay Varma alongside Meera Chopra. The film started streaming on Zee5 from December 29 onwards. Here’s all that you need to know about ‘Safed.’

‘Safed’: Story

Set in Varanasi in the 1990s, ‘Safed’ follows the story of two individuals – Chaandi and Kaali. Chaandi is a eunuch whose family has disowned her. She lives with her community and struggles to come to terms with her reality. She does not want to succumb to becoming a sex worker. On the other hand, Kaali is a widow. She recently lost her husband and she has been ostracized. She is sent to live with the widows. They meet when they are underwater in an attempt to take their lives. Kaali saves herself and Chaandi but she mistakes her for a man. Chaandi hides her gender from her. The respect and love she earned from Kaali because of her mistaken gender was something that she had never received. They start meeting and getting to know each other and fall in love. The story follows the hardships Chaandi and Kaali have to face as they defy social norms.

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‘Safed’: Performances

The film opens with Abhay Varma on a ghat in Varanasi. It makes sense to talk about the performances starting with him. Debutante Abhay Varma tries too hard to fit into the role. His body language lacks the nuance that was required from him to play this sensitive role. In some scenes, it feels comic sadly. His dialogue delivery falls flat on its face simply because he is trying too hard. The scenes where you are supposed to feel bad for the character fail to hit home because of how the role is portrayed.

Meera Chopra performs her role of Kaali. At best, she has done an okay-ish job. She looks restrained and it feels like she wants to say a lot, but she can’t. But that simply is because of how her character was written. She could have done better. The only scene where she does a fantastic job is where she surrenders herself to Chaandi, only to learn of her reality. It is the only part where she manages to evoke some sense of pity for her.

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Barkha Bisht has sadly not gotten into the skin of her character. At times, she feels unbelievable as Radha. Her body language does not feel natural, you can see that she is just acting out her part. She hasn’t been able to understand her character. However, what saves her are the scenes where she is with Abhay Varma. Their platonic chemistry can sometimes help you look past the fact that none of the actors have actually sunk their teeth into the flesh of their characters.

The problem with these three actors is that they are trying too hard to prove a point that they have forgotten that they are not Abhay, Meera, and Barkha on screen. Rather they are Chaandi, Kaali, and Radha. Jameel Khan and Chhaya Kadam play their parts of the stoic heads with perfection. But these two performers have been underutilized.

‘Safed’: Script, Direction & Technical Aspects

The story is refreshing because when we talk of romance, the mainstream cinema has always looked at it from a heteronormative lens. The story is good and is well-intentioned but that’s about it. It lacks nuance and direction. It is bland.

The dialogues are hard-hitting, but they fail to make a point because of how the actors have delivered them. Throughout the movie, thought-provoking dialogues that talk about how oppressed these communities have been sprinkled here and there. It is only through the dialogue you can understand the point the film is trying to make.

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‘Safed’ aims to tell the story of two shunned communities – the eunuchs and the widows. However, Sandeep has gone so deep in the story of Chaandi, that it only explores one-fourth of the oppression that widows have to go through. Throughout the film, the story flips between Chaandi’s life as a man with Kaali, and the life she lives with her community. Sadly, this transition is not seamless.

The movie has strong language and graphic scenes that will make you squirm and feel uncomfortable. From a critical point of view, these scenes help you understand where the characters are coming from and the pain that they have to endure.

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Giving credit where it is due, it needs to be applauded that Sandeep Singh chose a complex story for his debut. There are hardly any films in Hindi cinema that explore this topic in detail. Sandeep did not have a textbook formula in place, and he went with how the story progressed. His efforts need to be taken note of. The same goes for Abhay Verma for choosing a difficult character for his debut.

The movie has songs that have been sung by Sonu Nigam, Rekha Bharadwaj, and Shilpa Rao, yet none of them stand out.

The cinematography by Anirban Chatterjee was beautiful. He has been able to capture the essence of Varanasi with perfection. The ghats have been presented beautifully. In some sequences, it feels that the ghats are a character rather than a landscape.

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‘Safed’: Cast & Crew

Created By: Sandeep Singh

Director: Sandeep Singh

Cast: Meera Chopra, Abhay Varma, Barkha Bisht, Jameel Khan, Chhaya Kadam

Available On: ZEE5

Duration: 1 hour 9 minutes

‘Safed’: Can Kids Watch It?

No

Outlook’s Verdict

The film opens with a quote by Sandeep Singh. It reads, “The society we are growing up in is not growing up.” When I saw this quote, I assumed that the story would leave me thinking for days. But it simply failed to leave an impact. So much could have been done with the story – nuances could have been added and certain things could have been trimmed. The same goes for the actors. Their performance was not up to the mark. When I was thinking about ‘Safed’ hours after I had watched it to figure out what I liked, two things stood out for me. The first was that the story was not unnecessarily dragged. The second was that the ending took me by surprise. And that’s all I could think. I am going with 1.5 stars.

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