Thursday, August 26, 2010

'झेंडा' engages you..

As continuing evidence of the comeback of Marathi movies (not withstanding the current row over ticket sales and show timings), ‘Jhenda’ (The Flag) (released earlier this year) takes the not-so-uncommon political movie genre but gives it a different treatment in terms of the issue that it seeks to address. Written and directed by Avadhut Gupte (more known for his Jai Jai Maharashtra Majha number), Jhenda has as its backdrop the famous uncle-nephew rift that was the talking point of Maharashtra politics a few years back. However, Avadhut Gupte uses that only as a reference point and instead focuses on the political foot soldiers (the कार्यकरते ) that, in many ways, are the heart and hands of the party. The turmoil that the rank and file of the party experiences as a result of the games played by their leaders is the point of focus here and the movie is refreshingly different because of that.

The movie begins with the grand patriarch (shown only via his feet and his rudraksha-bearing trembling hand) anointing his son as his political heir (and thus overlooking his nephew who is seen to be a more natural successor). The political fallout of this on the lives of the people lower down in the party hierarchy is what is depicted. Specifically, there are four main characters (all portrayed by relative newcomers – another plus point) that are affected because of this. Santosh and Umesh are best friends living in one of the many chawls in Mumbai from where the parties get their manpower. While the former is a devoted follower of the partriach and his party (Jan Sena), Umesh is enamored of the fresh ideas and appeal of the nephew and his breakaway party (Maharashtra Samrajya Sena - MSS). Needless to say, when Umesh joins the new party, their relationship is put under severe strain. Then there is Avinash, the youth leader of the MSS in Kolhapur. Well educated but wanting to make a career out of politics, he begins with high hopes from the breakaway party and of his own political ambitions, but ends up being used by his political bosses for their own ends. And finally, there is Aditya. Working in a media company, he begins as wholly dismissive of, and uninterested in, politics. But when his job puts him close to the charismatic nephew (RAJesh Sarpotdar) he gets drawn in the political whirlpool and, towards the end of the story, emerges a completely different man. In fact, all four of them undergo a seismic change in their lives, mostly a result of excessive devotion, followed by disillusionment, towards their ‘jhenda’. Finally, the question of ‘कोणता झेंडा घेऊ हाती ?’ (‘Whose flag do I pick up ?’) - part of a brilliant title track - becomes largely rhetorical, underlying the fact that in politics, everyone is the same at the end.

As a first effort, credit is definitely due to Avadhut for taking up a sensitive subject (and he had his share of pre-release controversies) and handling it well. By taking up the issue of the ‘karyakarta’, the movie conveys the basic point, which is, ‘नेता कोणीही असो, शेवटी मारतो तो कार्यकर्ता आणि मारतो तो ही कार्यकर्ता !! ’ (‘Whoever is the leader, the people who kill are the workers, and the people who die are the workers !!’). The performances are all good, especially Santosh Juvekar (as Santosh) who convincingly shows the pain and disappointment of a soldier unable to come to terms with the changes in the party he so much adores. The music is passable, however the title track stands out. All in all, a good directorial debut by Avadhut Gupte.


Gandhi said...

Excellent review Sir! Looks like this movie should not be missed. Good that it surpassed the controversies around it.

Harshada said...

also, wht i liked is the song by Dnyaneshwar Meshram. Avdhut Gupte kept his promise of Sa Re ga ma pa...