BHAKSHAK is an investigative thriller. The year is 2018. Vaishali Singh (Bhumi Pednekar) is a journalist who resides in Patna with her husband Arvind (Surya Sharma). She and Bhaskar Sinha (Sanjay Mishra) run a small-time news channel called Koshish News. One day, an informer, Gupta (Durgesh Kumar), hands her a social audit report that states that the condition of the girls’ shelter home at Munawwarpur, Bihar is deplorable. It also states that the orphan girls have been physically abused in this home. The report was delivered to the government two months ago and yet, they haven’t taken any action or initiated an inquiry. Vaishali and Bhaskar head to Munawwarpur and realize that the shelter home is run by the powerful politician, Bansi Sahu (Aditya Srivastava). Vaishali even meets the Child Welfare Committee official, Mithilesh (Chittaranjan Tripathy) who feigns ignorance. Meanwhile, Bansi learns that Vaishali is trying to investigate his shelter home. He calls Arvind and warns him of dire consequences if she doesn’t stop. Despite knowing the risks, Vaishali plays the news on her channel. She visits shelter homes in Patna and other towns of Bihar to get some leads. But none of the shelter homes had any young girls who had previously stayed at the Munawwarpur shelter home. Finally, she meets a prime witness. What happens next forms the rest of the film.
Pulkit and Jyotsna Nath’s story, inspired by a true incident, is superb. It also works because not many are aware of this episode. Pulkit and Jyotsna Nath’s screenplay is captivating for most parts although the pace overall could have been quicker. Pulkit and Jyotsna Nath’s dialogues pack a punch, especially the monologue of Bhumi Pednekar.
Pulkit’s direction is exemplary. He approaches a no-nonsense approach, and the focus of this 135-minute-long film is on the principal story. Thankfully, he doesn’t try to titillate and yet, manages to show the horrors happening in the shelter home. The plot also reminds one of the Oscar-winning film SPOTLIGHT  but the dangers faced by the journalists here are grave and hence, the tension levels are quite high. The makers also raise some important issues and give a nice tribute to the unsung heroes of the media in rural India who are putting their lives at risk to break stories for the betterment of society. The film begins on a chilling note and some of the memorable scenes are Vaishali blasting her husband, Sudha’s (Tanisha Mehta) flashback and the scene at the hospital. The climax is exhilarating.
On the flipside, the film moves at a slow pace. A few scenes will leave the audience bewildered like the attempt to frame Mithilesh. And though the makers try their best to justify, it’s still unconvincing that Bansi or his men didn’t try much to silence Vaishali or Bhaskar.
Speaking of performances, Bhumi Pednekar delivers one of the best performances of her career. She carries the film on her shoulders strongly and understands the part correctly. Sanjay Mishra is extremely adorable, and he is also responsible for the laughs in the film. Watch out for his body language and non-verbal expressions and you realize that he’s a powerhouse of talent. Aditya Srivastava is terrific and essays the role of the antagonist with panache. Sai Tamhankar (SSP Jasmeet Gaur) leaves a huge mark but has limited screen time. Durgesh Kumar is entertaining. Surya Sharma lends able support. Gulista Alija (Baby Rani) is a talent to watch out for. The same applies to Tanisha Mehta. Chittaranjan Tripathy, Vibha Chibber (Rajni Singh), Pravin Kumar Sisodia (Brijmohan Singh), Shakti Sinha (Pappu Thekedar), Danish Iqbal (Suresh Sinha; Vaishali’s brother-in-law) and Pubali Sanyal (Mamta; Suresh Singh’s wife) are great.
Bhakshak | Official Trailer | Bhumi Pednekar, Sanjay Mishra, Aditya Srivastava & Saie Tamhankar
Songs are not of chartbuster variety. ‘Ganga’ and ‘Chanda’ are okay. ‘Shaamil’ won’t have a shelf life but is played at an important juncture and is powerfully worded. Clinton Cerejo and Bianco Gomes’ background score is impactful.
Kumar Saurabh’s cinematography is marvellous, and he makes good use of the lights and hues. Prashant Bidkar’s production design is impressive, especially the shelter home. Veera Kapur Ee’s costumes are non-glamorous, as per the requirement. Zubin Sheikh’s editing is sharp but could have been crisper.
On the whole, BHAKSHAK is a no-nonsense gripping investigative thriller and rests on the powerful performances of Bhumi Pednekar, Sanjay Mishra and Aditya Srivastava. It also gives a nice tribute to the small-town journalists who often risk their lives while trying to break stories that matter.