Sibling aggression in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakhaa
In the filmmaker’s upcoming film, Radhika Madan and Sanya Malhotra play warring sisters married into the same household
Sibling relationships often anchor the films of Vishal Bhardwaj. His humble but powerful debut, Makdee (2003), featured the characters of Chunni and Munni—inimical twin sisters in a small village who get entrapped by an impostor. 2009 saw the release of Kaminey, in which Shahid Kapoor doubled as twin brothers—Charlie the lisper and Guddu the stutterer—caught up in the Mumbai underworld. His upcoming film, Pataakha, is also centered on a sibling pair constantly at loggerheads; Chhutki and Badki, though not twins, have little regard for age or seniority when having a go at each other. Based on Charan Singh Pathik's short story Do Behnein, Pataakha equates the war-like equation between the sisters to the love-hate relationship between India and Pakistan.
“Stories are made from relationships. My own brother was eight years elder to me; naturally, I was the one getting beaten up all the time. As a writer-director, I get attracted to stories about siblings. There’s ample drama to be explored in a set-up like that,” Vishal reasons.
In Pataakha, debutant Radhika Madan plays the role of the elder sister Badki. The 25-year-old actor describes the power equation between siblings as a constantly volatile one. “This role was particularly difficult for me to play since at home I am the younger sibling. Growing up, my brother would always annoy me and treat me as a child, although he is just two years elder to me. I noted down everything he would do or say to me, and applied it to my character,” she says.
Dangal-fame Sanya Malhotra, who plays the younger sibling Chhutki, adds, “I was the younger sibling in my household too, so I understood my character very well. I used to love hitting my sister. I have no idea why we fought so much. I used to hate my sister and constantly avoid her. It’s only after I moved to Mumbai that I started missing her and we became the best of friends.”
Curiously, Radhika is three years younger to Sanya in real life. The decision to cast her as Badki was taken after an in-depth look test. “There was a lot of confusion about our roles, since we look the same age. So Vishal sir finally decided to do a joint look-test. Thankfully, when I personally met Sanya, I released that she should play the younger one. Personality-wise, I am more aggressive and imposing than her.”
Sanya agrees. “I am an introvert while Radhika is a full-on Delhi girl. When we first met, I thought she would annoy the hell out of me. Luckily, we bonded a lot during workshops and then on shoot. She is a very positive person to be around. I almost started feeling like her younger sister. It was important to have an emotional connect between us to pull off this film. I am sure all siblings will connect with our relationship.”
Pataakha is scheduled for release on September 28. The film also stars Sunil Grover, Vijay Raaz, Saanand Verma, Namit Das, and Abhishek Duhan.