Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Marathi pride awakened ??? Not quite..

The plot could hardly have been better.

- A community that has long felt marginalized and has been reduced to a minority in the capital of its own state.
- A community that has seen the winds of progress blow past it, while it has been busy leading a typical life: working in a bank as a clerk, earning enough to enable the family to survive, bringing up their children with all the right values, investing whatever little savings they have in good old fixed deposits and pension funds and then finally retiring peacefully.
- A community that harbours more than a grudge against the so-called ‘outsiders’ perceived to have taken over their city and livelihood but fails to realize that somewhere most of the blame lies inside
- A community that prides itself on its simplicity and loyalty but has somehow not really translated that into success and prosperity

So who better to awaken this community from its deep slumber than the person whom they regard as closest to God? A warrior, who by his exploits more than three centuries ago, still holds complete sway over the heart and mind of every member of that community ? In trying to bring this plot to life, ‘Mi Shivaji Raje Boltoy’ had everything going for it. However, to put it in a nutshell, while the movie does raise some valid questions, it does not go the full distance. And I, as a proud member of the above-mentioned community, confess to being more than disappointed.

Dinkar Bhosale epitomizes the middle-class Maharashtra community in modern Mumbai. He is a common man with not so uncommon problems in life. His ancestral bungalow in the heart of Mumbai has caught the eye of a builder who, of course, is willing to go to any lengths to get it. His nagging wife never ceases to remind him of their dull existence. His son resents him for neither having the will nor the resources to pay the donation required to get him into an engineering college. And his daughter is willing to get her ‘down-market’ surname changed so that she can be ‘accepted’ into Bollywood and fulfil her acting ambitions. And for Mr. Bhosale, his daily life is confined to dutifully going to his bank each day, longingly staring at the shirt in an upmarket store which he likes but cannot afford, bringing the same ordinary fish for dinner rather than the prized ‘paaplet’ and finally listening to his family members ranting about how insignificant their lives are. After one particularly rough night at the bar, Dinkar comes home bruised and beaten and longs for inspiration to rescue him from this non-consequential existence. And inspiration finally comes in the form of his namesake and Maharashtra’s demi-god, Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhosale.

At this juncture comes the movie’s high-point. Dinkar is transported into the Chhatrapati’s darbar atop Pratapgad fort. And the Chhatrapati gives him an earful about how he himself is to blame for his ordinary life. There the king (and through it, the director) makes the right noises. One particularly hard truth is the fact that most Maharashtrian restaurants and sweet-shops take pride in announcing ‘Aamchi kuthe hi shakha nahi’ (‘We have no other branch’) where in fact, they should be looking at expanding their business and generating income. Having made these, and other, painful truths clear to the audience, one was hoping that the remainder of the movie could been utilized for sending a powerful and hard-hitting message to the Maharashtrians as to how their own lack of ambition is partly responsible for the state they find themselves in, and further forcing them to introspect and possibly revive the ‘Marathi asmita (pride}’ within them (albeit in a constructive way !!).

Sadly, the remainder of the movie does not have anything specific to Marathi or the Maharashtrian community. It details how Dinkar (taking inspiration from the deeds of the Chhatrapati) transforms himself to a social crusader, fighting the powerful builder-politician-goon lobby and of course, his own internal demons. The common-man-fighting-the-system plot has already been revisited again and again by Bollywood. Hence, to that extent, the post-interval movie does not have anything significant to offer. Both the Bhosales are reduced to just any other names. And that, to me, is the movie’s biggest letdown. The first half of the movie has a strong Marathi connection which is simply let go of in the crucial second half. I have a sneaking suspicion that the makers might have been unnerved by the strong political and social reactions that an out-out ‘Marathi awakening’ movie would have generated and hence opted for a typical common man v/s system saga with only the principal characters being Maharashtrians. Whatever be the reason, it finally diluted the impact of what could have been a great path-breaking movie into just another good movie. As for the performances, Sachin Khedekar is excellent as the protagonist, conveying both the pathos of the middle-class weakling as well as the steel of the born-again Dinkar in the second half, with equal ease. However, Mahesh Manjrekar does not quite look the part of the Chhatrapati. For one, the get up makes him look too old. A younger Chhatrapati might probably have looked better (remember that he was only 53 when he died). And it also reinforces the notion that known actors do not make good historical characters since the audience ends up looking at the actor rather than the character.

To sum up, ‘Mi Shivaji Raje Boltoy’ is worth a watch if you enter the movie hall with lesser expectations. And if you can leave the hall with a desire to awaken the Marathi manoos in you, it will be worth the experience.



TW said...

Nice review... I think I'll see the movie, if I can find it.. like social themed stuff :)

Ess said...

I liked the 'aamchi shakha kuthe hi nahi aahe' part the best.
good blog.

marathi manooooos jaaaga ho!!!

Amit Gokhale said...

@ TW, Ess:

Thanks for the comments !!..

Sudarshan said...

Nice review bhava!!
There are many drawbacks but somehow I liked the movie.
And I agree that they should have shown Raje younger than that.


Amit Gokhale said...


Dhanyavaad !!!

Vivek Patwardhan said...

I too sure your disappointment. This plot could have been better exploited.

The timing of the movie with its end makes me feel that the story is somewhat politically motivated. I may be wrong, it is just an impression.

Enjoyed reading this post. Looking forward to many more,


Dhananjay said...

Saw the movie yesterday.
It left with more Q's then anything else.
For me the biggest failure of marathi people is unability to do business (of any sort). While we exhale in all other fields when it comes to commerce we have been found wanting ever since the time of Shivaji. Even Shivaji when he established Raigad as his capital gave the contract of establishing markets in Raigad's bajar peth to Nagappa who had come all the way from Karnataka. Peshava's who enjoyed a big success and at one point had even the delhi throne under their control always had large debts to marwadi's.
Today also the condition is same. Till we can master commerce and with that the money power which comes we will be in the same sorry state.