Nimrat Kaur is fantastic as a cop who learns about the horrors of social media at the same pace as someone who is not from this generation.
WHAT does “viral” even mean in 2023? There’s “break-the-internet” viral. There’s word-of-mouth viral. There’s the million metric viral (million-plus views or shares). There’s a kind of virality that contributes mainly to bad publicity. There’s virality that can make a career. And then, there’s virality that can lead to suicide. None of these sound outlandish, and we’ve all heard stories about them. And that’s why, not once does a character in Mikhil Musale’s Sajini Shinde Ka Viral Video ask, “Why does Sajini Shinde attempt suicide after a video of her goes viral?” They know. We know. Like Nimrat Kaur’s character Bela says in the film, “Yeh iss generation ka problem hai (this is the problem with this generation)” referring to online validation.
Sajini Shinde (Radhika Madan) is a Physics teacher at KP High School in Pune, and a work trip to Singapore changes her life. On her birthday, her friends drag her to a nightclub and proceed to get hammered. As is the case with a typical night out, there are a lot of pictures and videos of the women letting their hair down. One such video of Sajini gets accidently shared to the whole school; in it, she is extremely inebriated and dancing on a bar top with two male strippers. By the time she heads back to Pune from Singapore, her entire family, friends, fiance and students have seen the video. The slut-shaming and the misogyny begins. Her family and fiance hold her accountable, her school fires her, even as all of social media defends her actions. Why can’t a girl have some fun on her birthday? Turns out, this is not a country for women to “have fun”.
A typical small-town girl who wears her idealism on her sleeves, Sajini can’t handle the trauma. She writes a suicide note, blaming her father and fiance, and disappears. Enter Bela (Nimrat Kaur), a police officer who is battling her own version of patriarchy in the police force. She is tasked with finding out what happened to Sajini because she is a female cop and supposedly (according to her male superiors) can handle a case of this nature.
Through Bela’s gaze, we learn about Sajini’s toxic family (sexist father and uncle, muted mother and conflicted brother) who have been previously accused of being responsible for another young girl disappearing from their home, her gaslighting fiance (played brilliantly by Soham Majumdar) who can’t stop claiming he is the most virtuous person because “of course” he felt ashamed of his bethroted’s actions but he still spent all his time trying to scrub the internet of her videos, and her friends — from school and her PG — who believe more in armchair activism than actually helping a friend out. Everyone is culpable in her supposed suicide. Everyone is responsible for her disappearance.
The premise is crackling, and there are several scenes in the first half of Sajini Shinde Ka Viral Video that genuinely make you wide-eyed. Nimrat Kaur is especially fantastic as a cop who learns about the horrors of social media at the same pace as someone who is not from this generation, yet her wisdom overpowers the tough conversations. She speaks in punchlines, she has a gruff tone, and a pensive face that never lets on what she’s really feeling. I wish more time was spent in exploring her world as a contrast to the online world. We only see her through the lens of her profession, which is a pity because Bela could have been positioned as Sajini’s alter ego.
The casting and setting is pretty bang on; all the characters have a pivotal role to play in this larger satire about the intermingling of the internet and patriarchy — from Bhagyashree as Kalyani Pandit, the school’s principal, or Sumeet Vyas as a lawyer. Pune is a fantastic choice to set this story in because it’s exactly the kind of city where an incident like this would happen. On the one hand, there are hoardings and billboards with #findSajini peppered through the city, but on the other hand, her uncle is convinced she should be killed for the shame she has brought onto the family.
Bonus marks to the writers for creating excellent scenes within the film — all of them standalone pieces that would make for great sketches on reels/shorts. But they’ve been clubbed together clumsily to make a predictable, often confused film that sparks several thematic directions but doesn’t see them through. This is especially seen in the second half, when the pizazz of the film’s premise wears off and we’re left with the narrative crumbs that disintegrate at the speed of light. And then there’s the damp climax which is not unsurprising, it almost seems like cop out.
Maddock is known for films that are extremely catchy and ingenious on paper. Stree. Bhediya. Mimi. English Medium. Zara Hatke Zara Bachke. But only some of their films hit the jackpot. You can’t fault them on their innovation but not all sparks become raging fires. The same can be said about Sajini Shinde Ka Viral Video. It has all the elements of a word-of-mouth sleeper hit. But where the film eventually loses steam is in its parochial approach to its concepts and the damper of an ending. This is a film that could have really benefited from an explosive twist ending. I will say this though: we need more of Nimrat Kaur.