22 films in 8 years. Yes, thats the number of released films of Gajendra Ahire. He has reportedly shot 12 more!
Since his debut with Not Only Mrs.Raut, this marathi filmmaker has been making movies at a very brisk pace. Priyadarshan is probably the only filmmaker from India who has been consistently making films at this rate and that too for more than two decades. It is really wondrous what drives these filmmakers to direct so many films. Roger Corman from America and Koji Wakamatsu from Japan are the other filmmakers who have to their credit such a humungous number of films. Though both these filmmakers have been associated with cult films they also have a fair share of B-grade or ‘Pink’ films in their long line-up, unlike their Indian peers. On the contrary, Ahire has been mainly involved in cinema which is socially relevant. Given the taste of majority of Indian audience it is truly astonishing that so many of his films which strive to make a social comment have actually got a release.
Gajendra Ahire’s strength is easily his ability to write engaging screenplays with praiseworthy consistency. The characters that he sketches stay with you for long even after watching the film. Of the 7-8 films of his that I have seen all have had characters that are unconventional and hence all the more exciting. Other remarkable quality of his scriptwriting is that rarely does his scripts have characters that you feel are not fully developed. This is most visible in his film ‘Sumbaran’ where there are around 8-10 main characters, each playing a significant role in the story. Of all of them, it is the character of ‘Shakku’ that haunts without even saying a dialogue.
His mastery over creating mesmerizing characters is also seen in the film ‘Shevri’. In the film, a middle-aged woman named Vidya(Neena Kulkarni) is roaming the streets of Mumbai late at night for some reason and during this period she encounters many people which she wouldn’t have met otherwise. One such marvelous middle-aged character that she meets is played by Shivaji Satam. He offers Vidya a lift in his car which she accepts. He has mistaken Vidya for a call girl who has adopted a ‘middle class approach’ tonight. On realizing his folly he persuades her into having a one night stand with him. The persuasion is so decent that one is surprised by the subject being persuaded. The man has an uncluttered mind and very decently lets off Vidya when she rejects his proposal, saying ‘I am not an exploiter’. He is also courteous enough to thank her for her company. The brilliant part about this character is that he is like any typical middle-aged man you know which makes it really uncomfortable for you. You can catch this scene on youtube.
Tanaji from Tya Ratri Paus Hota is another character which leaves an impression. At times a servant or an assistant and other times a helpless executor of a politician’s sinister plans, Tanaji, played very aptly by Milind Shinde, also has a bit of humanity left in him unlike his ‘master’. When asked why he murdered people he very coldly replies ‘God’s wish’. But, when further enquired about what he felt while killing a person he says ‘I am reminded of the victim’s mother.’
Ahire also has a knack of writing a good solid script with the help of such strong characters. His scripts remain true to their subject, very rarely losing their focus from it. Other feature of his script writing abilities is the control over scenes involving high drama. Never does the drama become over the top. This is most evident in his only hindi film ‘Just 47‘. Dealing with the sensitive topic of AIDS, the film has quite a few high on drama sequences. But not once does the film tread into melodramatic territory which certainly is no mean achievement.
The most crucial aspect of low-budget films like the one Ahire makes is probably the performances of the actors. Generally the most paid members of the entire filmmaking unit, the fees of top quality actors rarely fit in the budget of low-budget films, thus forcing the director to opt for casting fresher talent. The characters being the heart of Ahire’s films, the performances of his actors gain even more importance. In this respect, Gajendra Ahire has been very successful in casting the right actors and also extracting convincing perfromances. Again ‘Just 47′ can be held as an example here. A till now unknown actor called Pratap Phad who plays the AIDS afflicted ‘Ram Singh’ in the film has given such a terrific performance that you are made to wonder whether anybody else would have done more justice to the role. On the other hand, Ahire has also collaborated quite successfully with the stars of the Marathi film industry like Siddartha Jadhav, Makarand Anaspure, Bharat Jadhav in films like Sumbaran, Paaradh and Sarivar Sari.
A distinct feature of Gajendra Ahire’s cinema is that his films never shy away from the harsh realities of the society much like the Malayalam master Adoor Gopalkrishnan. Be it child abuse, extra-marital affairs or AIDS, all such sensitive or taboo issues are taken head-on. This gives a bold and realistic touch to his films, a rare quality in Indian cinema.
Another aspect special about him is that he also writes the lyrics of the songs in his movies. It definitely helps him keeping the songs within the loop of his story. ‘Asa Dwad Paus aala’ from Tya Ratri Paus Hota gives ample proof of his songwriting capabilities.
But what holds back Gajendra Ahire is the orthodox storytelling. The lack of inventiveness in using the visuals to tell a story is disappointing. His scripts too sometimes follow a similar pattern. The use of flashbacks, divorced parents etc. are some of the tools he repeatedly uses in his narrative. All this becomes more prominent as films which push the envelope like Gandha, Gabhricha Paus, Vihir and Harishchandrachi Factory are being made by marathi filmmakers. After having seen such films the conventionality of Gajendra Ahire’s films makes one lose interest in them purely because of the orthodox direction in spite of an interesting story, exciting characters and good performances.
Now, the complete lack of awareness of his films is beyond me. If the internet is any indication, Gajendra Ahire doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. IMDB only lists 8 of the 22 released films of his. He does have his own website but that too hasn’t been updated since three years. To be fair to him, it is the job of the producer to promote the film and try to get as good a release as possible. But the regularity with which his films are badly released, it really makes one wonder whether Ahire wants them to be seen by people or not.
However, there is no doubting his honesty towards his films. It is clear that he makes his films with all his heart. He also seems to have learnt from his mistakes. His latest film ‘Hello Jayhind’ has been shot by the cinematographer Amalendu Chaudhary who has received acclaim for his work in Gandha, Harishchandrachi Factory and Jhing Chik Jhing. The music for the film has been given by Tamil maestro Illaiyaraja. So, finally it seems even Ahire has decided to shift a gear down in the speed in which he makes films but go a few notches up in their quality.