As I sat down to write this post I realized that there actually weren’t even 6-7 marathi films this year that I loved and wouldn’t mind watching again. It doesn’t speak well of a film industry that is slowly building a name for making quality cinema. But, as usual, marathi cinema did come up with a few gems. A striking aspect of the films listed below is that all of them have released in the first half of the year. It makes you wonder whether the second half syndrome that plagues many films made in our country, has carried over to the whole of the Marathi film industry itself.
Here are the gems I feel 2012 will be remembered for:
5. Baboo Band Baaja
One of the most heartfelt film from the year. It is a sneak peek into the life of a bandwallah from the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. It is not poverty porn and neither is it a tear-jerker, though a lot of scenes will surely leave you moved. The detailed and authentic description of the milieu the film is set in and some searing performances by the cast make it a truly memorable film. The research and scrupulousness of the screenplay is impressive. A small film with a big heart. (A detailed review of the film can be read here).
The title of the film is just a red-herring, as I consider this film to be a well-made biopic and not a devotional film. A highly under-explored genre in India, Tukaram is as good a biopic as any I have seen in Indian cinema in the last decade. The childhood portions that show Tukaram slowly getting mould into a great saint are my favourite. The director, Chandrakant Kulkarni, has managed to make a film that will appeal equally to those who revere the great saint and also to those who are looking to enjoy good cinema. It helps a lot that Jitendra Joshi in the lead role has given a devoted performance. The camerawork by the deceased cinematographer Rajen Kothari ensures that the film looks beautiful. You do actually feel that the scenes in the night are lit by torches which add a lot of authenticity to the period that is being portrayed. The music by Ashok Patki and Avdhoot Gupte and the lyrics penned by Dasoo Vaidya are the other high points of the film. (A detailed review of the film can be read here).
Girish Kulkarni has developed quite a reputation as an actor in marathi cinema. Even though his performance in this film, as the straightforward and rustic but sharp individual who is a chronic businessman, is one of his best, here it is his writing that simply takes the cake. It has such well- sketched characters that you can’t help falling in love with them. Not only are they charming but they stand for so much more than what appears on the surface. The film is also peppered with a lot of witty moments and dialogues. The narrative might seem to meander for a while but all the seemingly loose ends are tied fantastically well at the finish. This one’s a major triumph for Girish Kulkarni as a writer and marks him as one of the better writers in India.
2. Shala(The School)
The most loved marathi film of this year and rightly so. More a tale of adolescent love than a coming-of-age film, Shala is a very sweet and simple story that will certainly take you back to your school days. And if school was where you happened to experience the feeling of love for the first time then this is THE FILM for you. A 14 year-old boy, Joshi, is falling for a new girl in his class, Shirodkar. It is the 70s, the Emergency has been enforced, but the deep in love Joshi doesn’t fear expressing his emotions. He feels the love is mutual but the sharp but innocent 9th grader isn’t prepared to handle what life has in store for him as the academic year is nearing its end.
Much of Shala’s charm lies in the portrayal of the tender romance between Shirodkar and Joshi. The coy glances, the eye contact, the love note are all so delicately handled that a smile just doesn’t leave your lips. The mischief the kids indulge in school is surely going to make you nostalgic. Excellent casting, assured performances all around, non-intrusive camerawork and a lovely background score make Shala one of the best marathi films of 2012 and Sujay Dahake(director)one of the most promising talents in the country. Quality cinema with universal appeal, Shala is a perfect example of everything that is right with contemporary marathi cinema. (A detailed review of the film can be read here).
1. Ha Bharat Mazha(India is My Country)
Easily the film that got the most raw deal this year. Ignored by critics and audiences alike, Ha Bharat Mazha, i feel, is not only better than any marathi film, but also any Hindi film that has released this year. The film is about how the members of a typical middle class Indian family are influenced in their personal life by the Anna Hazare led Lokpal agitation that is taking place in parallel to the whole narrative. A simple and solid screenplay with such earnest performances that it makes you wonder whether Marathi cinema is inching closer to the best of Iranian Cinema.
Indie in its truest sense, Ha Bharat Mazha marks Sumitra Bhave-Sunil Sukhtankar as one of the best filmmakers and also Amol Gole as the pioneer of digital cinematography in India. Sadly, not only did the film get a very poor release but also there is no sight of its DVD. Also, Pune International Film Festival, where it won the top prize, was the only film festival it could participate in. Neither has the film been mentioned in any of the numerous lists of best films, indie or otherwise, on blogs. This review of the film is most likely the only review on the entire World Wide Web. Marathi cinema lovers(are there any?) should make an effort to patronize such kind of cinema along with highly promoted and overrated stuff like Kaksparsh.