Kaasav : Of Involuntary Unraveling And Wilful Mends.

Early on in the film, the character played by Dr.Mohan Agashe – Dattabhau, who is working on a turtle conservation program, shares a little tidbit about Olive Ridley turtles and the process in which the females nest. He says that the turtles, upon emerging from their eggs, instinctively rush towards the ocean, but in case they are faced with adverse conditions, they retract into their shell and try to become invisible to the outer world.

It proves to be a lovely theme that resonates throughout this drama focused on mental health, woven beautifully around Janaki – a woman who is grappling with her own anxieties and mental health issues (Iravati Harshe) and a disturbed young fellow Manav (Alok Rajwade) who is dealing with his own suicidal self.

Janaki comes across Manav who is down with high fever and all alone on a highway as she makes her trip from urban Mumbai to coastal Devgadh to take part in the turtle conservation project (which she later reveals to have given her a purpose in life). She takes him under his wing and with a non-judgemental approach loaded with empathy, makes him aware of how he can embrace his true self again.

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Though these words don’t do justice to the beauty of this film, a watching definitely convinces you that this film deserved its National Award For Best Film (2016) awarded by the Government of India and richly so. Restrained and fine performances, great cinematography, a solid script and a heartwarming screenplay with impeccable treatment make Kaasav a rare, beautiful film about mental health from India.

Kaasav soars with powerful themes of abandonment, loss of purpose, suicidal thoughts, neglect of mental health and finally acknowledgement of the right approach that lets the affected person embrace his own life on his own terms, accept his/her authentic feelings as real and validated, and a need that all of us share – to feel like we are part of something, that we can help with something, that we can be of use.

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While the film begins with the backdrop of Janaki participating in a turtle conservation program, the film finds a fitting finale with Manav finding his true calling, albeit in an unexpected way. Kaasav is a film of small wins that make us who we are, that redeem us in our own eyes, of constant struggles that perhaps we all face but so few acknowledge and of the crucial fact that just as we care for our bodies, we need to care for our minds and nourish and surround it with goodness when it faces its own trials.

The sensitivity with which mental health has been treated in Kaasav harks a comparison with recent Bollywood release ‘Dear Zindagi’ which too did a good job of bringing this issue out in the open but had its usual commercial trappings. Kaasav is a film unapologetic about how unglamorous mental health issues really are and holds up a mirror to everyone who has ever wondered about their mental health and held back from seeking help.

Go watch Kaasav for an absolute treat to  your senses as the story unravels and reminds you to be a little kinder to everyone around you, to respect the battles they are facing day in and out.

 

 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Killa : Poignant tale of growing up

There are many pieces of art that touch your heart, but only some of them can hit you personally, make you feel that whatever happened to you is universal – that something can be intensely personal and shared at the same time. Killa is the latter – a fine piece of art made with such loving attention to detail that hits and stings your heart.

Made by cinematographer Avinash Arun, this national award winning film is a moving tribute to parenthood and coming of age. A story about how a single parent is transferred from the bustling city of Pune to a small sleepy town Guhagar  with her 11-year old son Chinmay. A widow – she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her husband and is always questioning her parenting; a child who has just lost his father – Chinmay is grappling with his own issues of abandonment.

A new place, new school, new friends – all Chinmay wants to be is accepted. Not that he realises that. What follows is his personal discovery of friendship and himself. A tale of realising that sometimes, it seems like the world is coming to an end, but it’s not. Of realising that true friendship has its way of coming back to you. Of realising that the first big heartbreak in your life need not always be a romantic relationship, and being okay with that fact.

Killa is about that one moment that defines the end of childhood as we know it. That one moment that changes our perspective, is more often than not sad, but in all probability – makes us a better and stronger human being. Killa will resonate with anyone who has poured his heart and soul into the act of making friends and relationships; with anyone who can trace that exact moment in their life when someone broke the rose-tinted glasses they viewed the world with; with anyone who appreciates the power of silence over words that mean nothing.

Sensitive direction and gorgeous cinematography by Avinash Arun, fantastic performances by Archit Deodhar and Parth Bhalerao and images and moments that stay with you for a long long time after you’ve walked out of the theatre, Killa is an absolute gem and another gem from the new wave of Marathi cinema that continues to impress and delight.

MOVIE REVIEW : Elizabeth Ekadashi : Simplicity wins!

Elizabeth Ekadashi is a simple story of a Dynanesh, a bright kid preparing for his scholarship exams, his family and his set of friends and what happens in the holy week leading up to Ashadi Ekadashi, the holy day when devotees make the pilgrimage to Pandharpur, to worship Vithoba, a local form of Lord Vishnu.

Madhugandha Kulkarni establishes her credentials as a good writer very early on in the film as we are introduced to a family with a lot of quirk. A grandma who worships Newton along with the other Gods just because her deceased son was an admirer, Dynanesh – a child who loves his bicycle and names her Elizabeth and Mugdha aka Jhendu (another lovely detail) who treats the bicycle as another member of the family. The characters are fresh and relatable, with sensitive treatment throughout.

It is the holy season – when the entire population of the sleepy town of Pandharpur aims to make profit off the lakhs of devotees who would descend upon the city in a bid to visit the various temples in the area. Bad luck strikes and Dyanesh’s mother loses her knitting machine to a mortgage she had been trying to push for the last 3 months. She needs Rs.5000 to save her machine and get back to earning money for the family but only 4 days to get it. The kids make an endearing case and offer to set up a bangle shop in the holy season to help out. However, the mother rules it out and announces that the cycle, Elizabeth, would be sold off to raise Rs.2000.

The rest of the story is dedicated to the story of Dyanesh and his motley group of friends, who then go on to set up a shop near the holy temple and what happens when they try and earn some money. At this point, you may feel there is not much substance to the story and that it may end up being predictable, but that is where Paresh Mokashi’s treatment of the story will surprise and capture you.

The childlike wonder and naivety stays throughout the movie. Like in a child’s world, there are no villains, in Elizabeth Ekadashi, the only villain is the situation. This is just as a child would treat the situation, always looking at the bright side and always looking for the good in people. Be it the often swearing Ganya or the prostitute’s son who make up his friends, it is a refreshing take on life in a small, holy city. The city is never used as a character in the story but the essence of holy city comes through in the ending of the film and you have to watch it to know why and how.

The performances are very natural, with special mention for Shrirang Mahajan, Nandita, Dhuri and Pushkar Lonarkar – the child actors. They are at ease and make the film a joy to watch.

This film is another film in the continued trend of simple, rustic stories in Marathi cinema, narrated in a superb fashion. Though not high on aesthetic value like Tapaal (another beautifully simple story) – Elizabeth Ekadashi will make you laugh and cry along, because it will remind you how good life was when you were a child – in awe of the world and not believing for a second, that tomorrow will not be better than today.

It is showing at multiple theatres with subtitles. So, go ahead and sample this sweet film.

Movie Review : Deool : Commercializing faith.

Ever since I have watched the poignant and touching ‘Shwas’ which was a Marathi movie about a boy and how he deals with his impending blindness, my perception of Marathi cinema has changed. My view of Marathi movies being made with a lot more heart and soul has subsequently been supported by some gems like ‘Kadachit’, ‘Valu’, ‘Rita’, ‘Zenda’,’Taryanchi Baet‘ to name a few.

I went to watch Deool with huge expectations because

1) It is made by the same person who made the endearing ‘Valu’

2) It is made on a very real subject

When the movie ended, I did not feel like leaving my seat. The following is a summation of my thoughts about this wonderful movie –

Based on the theme of ‘commercialization of religion and faith’, Deool deals with a very complex issue, one that is found in every corner of modern Indian society. A fictional village called Mangrul provides the backdrop for this story. Mangrul is a dainty town with no hospitals, no good roads, no theaters and no modern amenities. The youth in the village get drunk but have little avenues of entertainment or profession. Almost all of them want a job in the city, but then there is Keshav. Keshav (Girish Kulkarni) is a cowherd who is content with his simple life, a far cry from what the other people his age would like or want.

One day, as he goes to sleep beneath a tree after spotting his cow, he gets a vision that Lord Datta is in front of his eyes.. in the form of the tree. He cannot control his emotions and tells everyone in his small village that he has just seen God.. no one in the village takes him seriously and a wise man in the village, Anna (Dilip Prabhavalkar) tells him that people may or may not believe him and he must keep such things to himself.

What follows is how the politician from the village(Nana Patekar) along with his nephew and the youth of the village take up this issue of ‘God’ being present in their village and how they commercialize the concept of God by building a temple and transforming the village into something else overnight. Because of the flux of pilgrims visiting the temple, the village loses it’s soul and everyone changes for the worse. The film essentially deals with how religion and faith are manipulated by people around us to turn it into a money-spinning industry. How the essence of faith is being eroded because of the glamour of money.

The film has delightful performances by the entire cast but a special mention for Girish Kulkarni who excels as Kesha. It is to his credit that he has managed to portray such a gamut of expressions with such ease. Lending him excellent support are Nana Patekar, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Sonali Kulkarni, Kishor Kadam and Mohan Agashe. The only problem one may have with the film is that it drags towards the end and could have been trimmed to cut it’s length by atleast 10 minutes. Also, the ‘welcome’ song seems redundant in the backsight but perhaps it was required to show just how corrupt people can be because of the lure of money and power.

With it’s light narrative and realistic dialogues, Deool will make you laugh and tug at your heart-strings. It will make you connect and relate to a lot of things on the personal level. And by the time the movie ends, I am sure you will see your faith in God in a new light..

Kudos to the director Umesh Kulkarni for another beautiful film and more power to Marathi cinema.