Cinema of the writer-director pair of Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhtankar is parallel in every sense. The subjects they have chosen right since their very first film Doghi(1995) have always been brave and socially conscious much unlike the most of Indian cinema. They have managed to fund their films in ways uncommon. They our content in making films from their hometown Pune which while showing their persistence, commitment and a sense of security in their kind of cinema also makes their films parallel in a production sense.
Their latest film ‘Ha Bharat Maazha’ is about how the members of a typical middle class Indian family get influenced in their personal lives by the Lokpal agitation which is shown to be taking place parallel to the whole narrative. The screenplay dwells into the personal lives of every family member by dividing the film into different chapters, each belonging to a member of the family. As each one of them goes about their daily routines they come across situations which put them into an ethical dilemma. The reaction of each one of them to these dilemmas with the obvious impact(direct or indirect) of the Lokpal agitation, is the heart of this film.
Sumitra Bhave’s screenplay, easily the most crucial part of the film, lives up to the challenge. Being a sociologist, she uses her keen understanding of the society to sketch such incisive characters that one just can’t help be impressed. The gray shades of the characters are also visible right throughout the film. All the characters that get space in the film feel so real that they don’t fail to leave a mark. The one which personally remains etched in my mind is that of the widowed sister of the patriarch of the family called ‘Tai’. She makes a living by working as a cook in the houses of various well to do families. The detailing and the exploration of the world of a domestic cook make her segment of the film the most interesting. With the use of such wonderful characters Sumitra Bhave is successful in weaving a tale which while celebrating the mundane also ends up giving a social message.
Also, the film isn’t shy of displaying the hypocritical side of the Great Indian Middle Class like how they crave for a corrupt free society, but at the same time indulge in subtle forms of corruption themselves. We are also shown the lack of empathy prevalent among middle-class housewives towards their domestic workers. But all this is given a rather elusive treatment and there is no hammering down of any social commentary.
The camaraderie among family members and the whole atmosphere in the house resemble the one in Vihir. It also might seem because some of the actors like Alok Rajwade have also been cast in a somewhat similar role. The performances of the lead actors and the conversation between them seem so real that you end up wondering whether they are actually a family. Gladly, there is not a single performance in the entire film which doesn’t match up to the challenges of the character. Everybody, right from Vikram Gokhale as the patriarch of the family to Jitendra Joshi as the pujari son-in-law to Radhika Apte as a NRI is simply outstanding.
As directors, Sumitra Bhave and the FTII trained Sunil Sukhthankar keep things simple and let the script do all the talking. There are no fancy cuts and neither is there any hint of non-linearity. The performances that they have managed to extract from their actors carry the film on their shoulders. One aspect that they have smartly managed to capture is how most of the family is glued to the TV sets during the whole Lokpal agitation much like most of India. A TV footage of news channels is also included in the film showing various stages of the Lokpal agitation and also some analysis of the same.
Shot entirely on the digital camera Canon 5D by the Stanley Ka Dabba cinematographer Amol Gole, the cinematography is non-intrusive. The minimalist camera movement lures us inside scenes, as if to place us almost physically at the center of what we are watching. The confidence that Gole has gained in using the 5D is clearly visible. There is also a lovely use of mirrors in some of the scenes which, despite not being showy, catch your attention.
The film has reportedly been produced in a budget of Rs.1 lakh. Nobody of the technicians or the actors has charged for their work which speaks a lot about the passion and dedication of the entire crew. This dedication and love for cinema can easily be sensed in the film.
Now, the part which left me a tad bit disappointed is the end. My only grouse with the it is that it’s a very conventional one. It is not a bad way to end a film but after walking a path rarely taken right throughout the film the unadventurous finale does upset you a bit. Also the dubbed sound hampers the overall realistic feel of the film. But never mind, Ha Bharat Maazha is brave and conscientious cinema made with such conviction that it is bound to be appreciated by one and all.