Thar has many elements that hurt our attention: a tiny outpost in a border town, a mysterious stranger, a pair of caps, and a series of bodies, draining of life-blood, decay, dying. But this is one of those films where the setting is the real hero – the ‘marushhal’ (desert) stretching as far as the eye can see, crumbling forts, bare trees providing scarce shade, implausible, heavy beauty. The stunning landscape and the haunting soundscape becomes the space of a ‘bewander’ (storm), as a main character describes it, which bows everything away in its wake. The sights and sounds of Thar Will stay with me, even as I hesitate about part of it. The film would have been called a Spaghetti West in the days when Sholay (1975) was released. The filmmakers are aware of how much tar, put in 1985, reminds us of the Ogg Desi West – a balcony with a woman looking over it, the dazzling lights of the desert, the armed men cluttering on horses, and the violins. And just in case we have lost sight of it, Inspector Surekha Singh (Anil Kapoor), who likes to be explanatory, ponders on high whether it’s not about the bad guy Gabbar anymore, but maybe Jai and Veeru, or even Basanti, Or, you know, RMLL? Having believed that he had sufficiently strayed the waters (the dialogues are credited to Anurag Kashyap, who was probably reached when he wrote this and other salty, invective-loaded lines in the film), the cop who gave up his job without getting A rise, returns to work in hand: Who is behind the murder? As in all good Westerners, the needle of suspicion soars to the almost silent exterior, which is hidden in a small Austria led by a cheerful fellow in suspensions. Siddharth (Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor) wears ‘hockey’ and ocher, which match the colors of the film, and crosses the area in a muddy jeep. Who is the guy? Is he really an antique dealer as he claims to be? Or is it something more sinister? There are drug growers and smugglers here. Were they the ones responsible for the horrible deeds? Meanwhile, we are presented with the most cruel, cruel scenes of violence, which border on torture porn. And here the film begins to feel overwhelmed: the victims, hanging from the ceiling, blood running out of many openings (I will never be able to see a rat again on the same path), begging for mercy all the time. At that time we were paralyzed, and past caring. A well-judged mystery reveals his cards at the right time. In Thar, it comes just a little too late. In between, a string containing ‘afem’ (opium) smugglers from Pakistan and their accomplices on the Indian side, was thrown in. . In a place that feels so real, many of the actors appear thrown. The bunch meant to be locals (Jitendra Joshi and Sanjay Bishnoi among them) looks as if they could belong, but even they stand out when placed against the villagers who do just a few scenes. Fatima Sana Shaikh makes us aware that she has hidden feelings, but she calls attention, and her apparel feels like a costume. And harsh Wardhan is too impressive even when he is sharing his turmoil. In contrast, Anil Kapoor, though not rustic enough, sliced smoothly through the film, zig-zagging, shooting, cursing flying: he is the worn, tired moral center of the film, and he catches not a single bullet. The best performance comes from Saty Kaushik: as the lower chest policeman, whose uniform is a sign in more ways than one, girl is one with the ‘thar’. He came from Van, and here he goes.