There has been very little good news coming out of Punjab, films wise. And Irada is no exception, but rather than drugs, it deals with the cancerous contamination of Punjab’s groundwater and fields.
That is a film crying to be made, but instead of the characters, Irada gives us caricatures: a strict disciplinarian Armyman father played by Naseeruddin Shah, who has fought in every war from 1971 to Kargil; his young daughter aspiring to be him and falling to cancer; an overzealous RTI activist; his raging journalist girlfriend who deploys drones to do her investigative stories (Sagarika Ghatge); a gum-chewing, cynical NIA officer (Arshad Warsi) with a young son who admires him; the corrupt chief minister who doesn’t hide her capriciousness (Divya Dutta, with the film’s only crackerjack scene); the greedy tycoon who once drowned a kid at Doon School and now bumps off RTI activists for pleasure (Sharad Kelkar); and finally a nobody called Bhagat Singh willing to be a martyr.
The scam really plunges deeper than one imagines, with the possibility of even labs fudging results. The train that runs between Bathinda and Bikaner, actually called cancer train because of the number of patients it carries looking for treatment in Rajasthan, swarms with agents peddling blood and insurance agents looking for clients. Yes, that too happens.
But what might ultimately stay with you is that Dutta scene, hinting at what lies at the bottom of her malice. That, and the poetry the film is fond of spouting, often at times when it would do better talking.
Shah does everything, from training his daughter in swimming and running, to writing a book, riding a bike, chomping a cigar and typing purposefully into a typewriter. And yet, does little at all.