More than a few young men will likely recognize themselves in snatches from the growing up years of Mandar Ponkshe, the protagonist of Hunterrr. Skipping class to sneak into an adult film, gathering with friends outside a girls’ school during lunch break, brushing up against an unsuspecting older woman in a crowded place. These scenarios, however embarrassing in retrospect, are unmistakably familiar.
Writer-director Harshavardhan Kulkarni introduces us to Mandar as a teenager curious about the opposite sex and his body’s response to it. There are charming scenes of a young Mandar (played convincingly by Vedant Muchandi) struggling to strike up so much as a conversation with a girl, even as he dispenses romantic advice like an expert to his classmates. He gets braver as he gets older (now played by Gulshan Devaiah), first securing a girlfriend whom he gets thrown out of his college hostel for bringing back to his room, then starting an affair with a married neighbor, and subsequently turning into the kind of oversexed lothario that’ll make a play for anything in a skirt, or a saree, or a pair of shorts.
The film cuts repeatedly between these scenes from his youth, and the present day, in which Mandar, now in his mid-30s, is preparing to get married, although he still can’t keep it in his pants. He has his heart set on Tripti (Radhika Apte), who appears broad-minded enough not to be hung up on his colorful sexual history, although he hasn’t mustered up the courage to share it with her yet.
The prickly subject of sex addiction is viewed through a comic lens in Hunterrr, and for a good part, it works too. Kulkarni keeps the casting real, populating the film with the kind of unremarkable, everyday faces that fit comfortably into its middle-class Maharashtrian milieu. There’s some witty dialogue too, alas much of it unsuitable to repeat in a review.
It’s the film’s constantly jumping timeline that wears you out soon enough. We go back and forth in time – six months earlier, five months later, three months ago, two years later, and so on – until it’s hard to keep track of where we are at any given point. Moreover, the film’s second half feels painfully repetitive and devoid of any interesting insights. Hunterrr is far from fair in its depiction of women, who are either portrayed as desperate-for-marriage becharis, or unhappy frustrated housewives, both conveniently becoming easy prey to Mandar’s ever wandering eye. The sexist stereotyping is one thing; more offensive is the fact that the women in the film are uniformly dumb.
That’s a shame because the actresses embodying them are talented young ladies who deserved better. Sai Tamhankar as the frisky neighbor who comes over for afternoon romps has a deep, underlying sadness in her big, expressive eyes. Radhika Apte plays the educated, financially independent Tripti, as confident, smart and spunky even, the sort of girl who points out attractive women to her date. Oddly, she’s the only woman Mandar appears to have no designs on sexually. Hypocrisy, anyone?
Still, the film rests largely on the able shoulders of Gulshan Devaiah, who succeeds in making you care for a character that’s not always likeable. Devaiah brings an everyman earnestness to Mandar, which protects him from coming off as a deviant. Too bad the film itself is promising but ultimately disappointing. A film, that in the end, delivers little else but cheap laughs.
I’m going with two out of five for Hunterrr.