Ravi Jadhav’s directorial debut Natrang takes us into the yesteryear of Marathi cinema in which no superhit movie was complete without a ‘tamasha’ (i.e. folk dance-play) and a ‘laavni’ (sensuous song).
Gunavantrao Kagalkar (aka Guna, played fabulously by Atul Kulkarni) is a labourer with a chiseled physique in a remote village. He has a penchant for a ‘tamasha’ and imagines himself as a king in the ‘tamasha’ whenever he spends half of his income watching and squandering on one. His wife and father are upset over this habit and keep on pestering him to change himself.
With the onslaught of machinery, the villagers are wary of losing their job. In an attempt to survive, Guna floats the idea of starting a tamasha troupe. Touted as immoral by the villagers, the money attracts his team into it. They go to various lengths of stealing to get the equipment for the troupe. Each one finds a unique talent within oneself that would aid in forming the troupe. Pandoba (Kishore Kadam in a shrewd role) and Guna are successful in forming the whole team, and they are ready for their first gig. They also team up with mother-daughter duo of Yamunabai (Priya Berde), Pandoba’s ex-flame and Naina (Sonalee Kulkarni). However, their tamasha is incomplete without a pansy character ‘nachya’. People familiar with the ‘tamasha’ in remote Maharashtrian villages would know the importance of a ‘nachya’ – it is like what water is to a school of fish. Often, the pansy character is misunderstood as a homosexual personality and also subjected to humiliation, insults and abuse.
Here comes the dilemma for Guna at the mid-point of the story. Guna has to choose between his promise and passion of his ‘tamasha’ and the ostracism that he would face by becoming a ‘nachya’. Fully aware of the repercussions, Guna takes the extreme step of filling in for the ‘nachya’. He undergoes training under Naina to gain the mannerisms of a woman. He loses his physique and muscles, loses weight to, applies make-up to embrace Feminism with a capital F.
The plays written by Guna in the tamasha’ strikes the right chord among people, and the troupe becomes famous. They get various contracts, and they go for a village tour of around 3-4 months. Guna faces ridicule from his father and wife for continuing with this kind of work.
Their ‘tamasha’ becomes so famous that even rival political parties want to have them in their territory. During one such incident, Guna weighs promise more than pressure and refuses to bow and even faces molestation. Being away from home also causes one of his colleague to attempt to molest him.
Meanwhile, Guna’s father passes away. Pandoba does not inform Guna of his father’s death as he feels that the ‘tamasha’ would be in trouble.
Guna and Naina fall in love. Naina rejects the marriage proposal as she knows the humiliation carried from Guna being a pansy character would be daunting for their future life.
To resurrect his image and that of a ‘nachya’ in general, Guna tries to write a play that will make people accept him as a character rather than just a pansy character, but he is unsuccessful. People are unable to imagine Guna as a king or any other character for that matter.
The political clashes lead to a revolt and destruction of the troupe. Guna comes back to his village, only to be boycotted by his community and his family.
Unaccepted by society, Guna believes in himself and vows to continue doing what he does best – ‘tamasha.’ He is so deep into the art that he is standing at a point of no return. With Naina by his side, there is only one way for him to survive. They resume from where they left. Guna performs various character roles through out his lifetime to achieve huge success. He is conferred the life time achievement award.
Your heart goes out to Guna. Atul Kulkarni showed the kind of work he is capable of. His hard work is eminent. The rural Marathi accent has been beautifully adapted by all characters. The writing by Abhay Yadav (his novel) and the screenplay by Ravi Jadhav are top-notch. The dialogue, songs, and music are a renaissance of the past. At 127 minutes, the film feels to be a bit short. The transition of Guna from a well-bodied labourer to a pansy character and Guna’s relationship with his wife and son warranted more footage.
All in all, Natrang is a landmark film that was an inflection point for
The review is also published on IMDb