A Story of Survival.

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
Marathi cinema. 

The review is also published on IMDb

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1590129/reviews-8

Rating: 8.5/10

Sneak peek:

Magical and Special.

‘Come…relive your adolescence’ should have been the tagline of the film Time Pass (2014) (aka TP). After Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar  (1992) and Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (2008), Time Pass makes you relive your magical and special first love and is dedicated to everyone who has fallen in love at least once.

TP is a story of a mischievous poor boy Dagdu (Prathamesh Parab) and a middle-class girl Prajakta Lele (Ketki Mategaonkar). Dagdu is a school dropout, who eventually decides to deliver newspapers. One day he is insulted by one of the residents Madhav Lele (Vaibhav Mangle). Dagdu decides to teach him a lesson. He decides to hit on his daughter Prajakta and woo her with the support of his friends.

Prajakta is the quintessential girl next door, bound by the rules set by her father. Dagdu initially thinks of this as a pastime, but eventually is infatuated to her. Prajakta on the other hand initially ignores Dagdu, but she is attracted to his simple nature. She seeks freedom, a break from her father’s militarised home environment. She is more than happy just to be with Dagdu. His innocence and straightforwardness make her fall for him

Slowly, Dagdu becomes Prajakta’s (or Paraju as he calls her) best friend and soulmate. And he slowly captures her heart and mind. It feels funny when Prajakta confesses her love in the most poetic way and Dagdu is unable to comprehend whether it is acceptance or rejection. It is said that when you fall in love, you begin to mirror each other. This is evident when Prajakta also speaks broken Marathi like Dagdu and shocks her parents.

While still trying to understand whether this is a pastime or love, Dagdu and Prajakta fall head over heels for each other. This is highlighted in a scene in a library, where Dagdu and Prajakta try to convey their feelings silently to each other by picking up the right book titles, thus delivering the best scene in the movie. They try to hide their relationship from her dreaded father, but the cat is eventually out of the bag. They are too young to realise that love is just not enough to live life. A poor class Dagdu can never match to the standards of Prajakta’s family which are rich in culture and has a higher degree of education and sophistication. Spruha, Prajakta’s music teacher, convinces Dagdu that education is the only bridge that will make him traverse that gap. Also, the relationship between Spruha and Vallabh, Prajakta’s elder brother is strained due to their father. And that he would never approve of their love relationship.

Set in Thane, western India in the mid-80’s when cultural and class differences were most prominent, and love relationships were still a taboo, Time Pass is a story that is closer to your heart, especially if you have lived your childhood in Mumbai, Thane and surrounding areas. The film also pays tribute to the yesteryear Hindi cinema when Dagdu and his friends refer to Prajakta’s father as ‘Shakaal’ (of Shaan (1980) fame). Vallabh also passes a comment to Dagdu ‘Since Tarzan (aka Adventures of Tarzan,1985) has released, everybody has started to flock the gym.”

Although Dagdu could have convinced Prajakta to run away with him, the motherless child still has in values in place. This is evident when Dagdu rides a bicycle for three days continuously to save his father’s auto rickshaw, which was their only source of income and pawned to pay for Dagdu’s tuition classes.

The scenes where the parents hit their daughter are a bit confronting (again a glimpse of mid-80s), and could have been avoided. The climax comes at a point, on Prajakta’s birthday, where both families are made aware that their children are dating each other. Prajakta’s family calls Dagdu to rebuke him. He leaves promising that he will get out of Prajakta’s life once and for all. The film ends with Dagdu meeting Prajakta for one last time and promising her that will gain his status through the path of education. This sets the premise for another heart warming roller coaster ride of young and innocent emotions – the part 2!.

Prathamesh and Ketki are the most appropriate for their roles in the film. Vaibhav Mangle as Prajakta’s father is convincing and menacing but lovable. Bhalchandra Kadam as Dagdu’s dad gives a very compelling performance. Music by Chinar-Mahesh is fresh, mushy and soft. You want to hear the songs again and again. Screenplay and direction by Ravi Jadhav are top class. He took the risk of working with less known actors like Prathamesh Parab and Ketki Mategaonkar but gained solid multi-fold returns, which goes to show again that content it always king and why you should believe in fresh blood.

Based on Shaiju Mathew’s coming-of-age novel Knocked Up, Time Pass breaks away from the convention of a happy ending – the reason it is now a candidate for remakes. It is optioned to for remake in Telugu.

Many Marathi movies have been remakes of Hindi films. It is now time for Hindi film industry to pick up these gems.

Rating 9/10.

This review is also published on IMDb.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3446426/reviews-6

Sneak peek:

 

A Unique Story of Change and Revenge.

Badla’ – the word in the Hindi language has two different meanings – ‘Change’ and ‘Revenge.’ Badlapur is also a town in Thane district of Maharashtra, which forms the fulcrum of conflicts and complications in the unique story – Badlapur (2015).

Varun Dhawan (Raghu), gives his best performance yet. Breaking away from the college boy cliche’, he shows us his true capacity. The story starts with the bank robbery by Laik (Nawazuddin, who plays the cunning antagonist in a stalwart performance) and Harman (Vinay Pathak in a convincing performance) that leads to kidnapping and murder of Raghu’s wife and his only son. Harman flees away with the cash while Laik gets caught by the police. This slingshots the movie into a  revenge saga. Raghu is hellbent on avenging the death of his wife and son.

The film does away from the usual and believes in hurting your opponent where it hurts most. Raghu tortures Laik to reveal his partner’s name by approaching Laik’s muse Jhimli (a sensuous Huma Qureshi), a prostitute and exploiting her.  With Laik sentenced to 20 years and firm on not telling his partner’s name, Raghu moves away from his home to run away from old memories and holes himself to a town called Badlapur.

Time flies. Laik develops stomach cancer while he is still in jail. Shobha, the social activist (played by Divya Dutta) asks Raghu to sign his mercy plea so that Laik can live the rest of his life in peace. Raghu meets Laik and asks him his partner’s name. When Laik doesn’t give in, Raghu does not agree to the mercy plea. In distress, Laik’s mother approaches Raghu in Badlapur to reveal the name of Laik’s partner. As promised, Raghu agrees to commute Laik’s sentence.

The story by Massimo Carlotto is based on an old African proverb as the premise – ‘The axe forgets but the tree remembers’. Even after all these years, Raghu has not forgotten the wound inflicted upon him by Laik and Harman.

Raghu reaches Harman and his wife Koko (played credibly by Radhika Apte), befriends them and then kills them. His methods leading up the revenge and the revenge itself are the signature of director Sriram Raghavan.

‘Badlapur’ is a story that weighs the protagonist and antagonist on an equal scale. Laik reaches Badlapur to meet Raghu and ask him about Harman’s whereabouts and the money. When both of them meet at ‘Badlapur’, the story jolts into towards the climax. Raghu describes to Laik how he has killed Harman and lets go of Laik as he is already dying a slow death. He refuses to give Laik the whereabouts of the loot from the bank.

Meanwhile, the police officer investigating the old bank robbery case is at a closure point. He blackmails Raghu to give him the money to let him off. Raghu disagrees. Laik tells his mother to remember him as a kind man, and he reaches the police station. Laik confesses to Harman’s and Koko’s murder and describes every detail of the killing and where he has buried the corpses.

In the end, the antagonist sacrifices himself and gives a new lease of life to Raghu, the protagonist. Their meeting in Badlapur marks the focal point of the movie where both of them have undergone a change.

‘Badlapur’ marks yet another installment of Sriram Raghavan’s cult movies after ‘Ek Hasina Thi’ and ‘Johnny Gaddar’. The screenwriting is full of punching wisecracks – the best one coming from the call girl, whom Liak visits when he is back from serving 15 years. After a passable ‘Agent Vinod’, Raghavan is back with his ‘Tarantino’ style of movie making filled with intense situations where mostly words are louder than actions.

Rating 8/10

This review is also published on IMDb

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3678782/reviews-117

Sneak peek:

 

 

It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

Here is my synopsis of Harper Lee’s celebrated novel – ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, breaking it down into the Three Act Structure.

The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was Harper Lee’s first novel.

Mockingbirds are singing birds who make music to make everyone happy and create a joyous environment. They do not harm anyone. They promote a peaceful and productive environment. Hence, for the betterment of the society, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

The book was also made into a movie ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, starring Gregory Peck.

Plot point 1: Atticus takes on the case of a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of beating and raping a black woman, Mayella Ewell.

Complications and Impacts on Characters:

1. Most of the Maycomb population is convinced that Tom Robinson is guilty and begin to look at Atticus in a negative way for defending Tom.2. Scout and Jem get tormented in school due to their father’s decision3. Atticus proves to the jury that Tom Robinson couldn’t have committed the crime as his left hand is crippled. However, Tom is pronounced guilty by the jury.4. The decision saddens Scout and Jem and begin to realise the town’s prejudices against the blacks. It’s hard for them to understand how people can be so mean to each other.5. Tom tries to escape from prison and is shot and killed in the process.6. The whole thing deeply moves Jem, and It takes him a long time to get over the jury’s decision and Tom’s death.

Plot point 2: Bob Ewell, Mayella’s father, begins threatening Atticus for embarrassing him in court, and resolves that he’ll get him back one way or another.

Climax: Time flies, and finally Bob Ewell is good to his word and attacks Jem and Scout Halloween night with a knife. He breaks Jem’s arm and almost kills Scout, but Boo Radley, of all people, comes to their rescue and saves them.

Resolution: The sheriff, Heck Tate, plays down the whole thing over so as to not drag Boo Radley into the spotlight. Scout is thrilled to get finally to meet the man they for so long fantasized. As Scout walks Boo back home, she realises that all, this time, he was watching her and Jem from his front porch windows.

Wazir (2016): A game of two friends where both are winners.

Please read my review of the film ‘Wazir‘ (i.e. Queen in Chess) on IMdb.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0315642/reviews-69

Rating: 8/10

Sneak peek:

 

 

Aligarh (2016): Tragedy of a Professor, who did not fear to choose.

Please read my review of the film ‘Aligarh‘ on IMDb.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5121000/reviews-17