Director: Victor Mukherjee
Writer: Alok Sharma
Cast: Anshuman Jha, Riddhi Dogra, Paresh Pahuja, Milind Soman
If you are a cynophile, you are in for a real treat. Directed by Victor Mukherjee, Lakadbaggha is a simple and yet thought-provoking story of an ordinary man turning vigilante. Arjun Bakshi (Played by Anshuman Jha) is many things. He is a courier guy, a martial arts teacher, a Wikipedia of dogs, and above all, he is a gentle soul. In the opening scene of the film, Bakshi is taking a night stroll into the lanes and by lanes of Kolkata.
Wearing a black hoodie and on-ear headphones, he takes out a packet of biscuit from his pocket and feeds the pups on the desolate street. As he is feeding the pups, a motorcyclist is about to hit one of them accidentally. What follows is a satisfying fighting sequence between Bakshi and the motorcyclist when he says that pups are meant to be killed on the road. Sure, for all the philozoics it is one of those moments wherein we just can’t help but feel a multitude of emotions.
As the night descends and the story progresses, the camera shifts to the crime branch where Akshara D’Souza (Played by Ridhi Dogra), a crime branch officer, is tensed as she is struggling to find a vigilante in the city. D’Souza is a committed officer who sees nobody above the law and order. One day Bakshi’s furry friend Shonku goes missing and in the quest for finding him, he learns of the illegal animal trade taking place in the city.
Lakadbaggha is one of those rare films which makes you want to wince once in a while but keeps you hooked throughout. It can’t be boxed as a thriller because the plot has loopholes and many a time loses the grip. However, it is a sincere attempt to make a film based on animals in Bollywood. The USP of the film is the writing. The dialogues are quotable quotes and compel you to think.
Bakshi is a strong and impactful personality. He is a vegan who dreams of people having dog meat in biryani. Jha gets into the skin of the character effortlessly. During a conversation with D’Souza, he feels offended as a pet parent because she says Shonku is a street dog. Bakshi quips, “Stray dogs are dogs too.” His fighting sequences are well executed and he doesn’t overdo anything. He is an innocent chap who speaks English and a little bit of Bengali but is too shy to admit that he is on a date.
Dogra as an officer from the crime branch brings a potent source of strength to the character of Bakshi. She is natural at her act and has decently justified her character. Having a gloomy past, D’Souza gives a chance to love, and in this very small world, it turns out to be the guy she’s been chasing. Very interestingly, D’Souza is associated with an NGO which actually belongs to her late parents. The mantra of the pet NGO is adopting and not shopping. Ironically, Indian breeds aren’t allowed in an Indian dog show that the NGO organizes. D’Souza is not a pet hater, but she’s not even a pet lover. “I got bitten by a Pitbull and since then I have a strange fear of dogs,” she says. Her fear is most visible when she visits Bakshi’s house and gets scared seeing his unleashed pet.
Even in a smaller character Kharaj Mukherjee, a veteran actor who is a scene stealer in Bengali cinema is fantastic as an avuncular College Street librarian. Aryan (Played by Paresh Pahuja) is the villain in the story. A butterfly collector at heart, he has some incredible one-liners that are just the cherry on top. For instance, when he invites Bakshi over to dinner at his home and takes him to his collection of ‘dead’ butterflies, there’s a different air in the room. As the two get into a conversation about death, Aryan says, “Death is a course of nature. Titli ko titli banne kai liye na caterpillar ko marna padta hai. To reach our true potential, we have to kill our weaker selves. If nature had saved every life form, then there would have been no evolution.” Having said that, Bakshi has his own philosophy. Trained in martial arts by his father (Played by Milind Soman) he believes in fighting for the right and especially for those who don’t have their own voice.
Animation can take on new dimensions of ferocity and cuteness. But here the film lacks that kind of exploration, leaving little in the name of VFX. Set in the backdrop of Kolkata, we hardly see the city except in one or two scenes of the Victoria Memorial and the iconic landmark in Kolkata, the Howrah Bridge. The Bengali language feels forced as it doesn’t seem to be coming naturally to the actors except for Kharaj Mukherjee. The characters have no arc, and they are just themselves. Nevertheless, the powerful one-liners, thought-provoking quotes and decent acting overpower the loopholes. In essence, Lakadbaggha could have done wonders, but it didn’t even disappoint us. The film raises a toast to all pet lovers!