Writer-Director Devashish Makhija gives a powerful contemporary story that brims with cultural context
It is very rare that an actor touches your heart without saying much with his/her mouth, but only through the face or body language. In Bhonsle, Manoj Bajpayee, the already proven genius, does exactly this all throughout the film. In a story that is rooted deep in the social frame, you get goosebumps, you are left wrenched, and all you can do is marvel at the filmmaking.
Ganpat Bhonsle (Manoj Bajpayee) is a terminally ill Maharashtrian policeman, retired out of his will. He is forced to act against the system when local politicians incite violence against the North Indian migrants.
The story is written by Mirat Trivedi, Makhija, and Sharanya Rajgopal. First things first- it’s a crisp story. Not going overboard or dramatic, it sticks to its positioning, the subtle harshness which turn vicious in no time. Now this may seem simple to write or think. On screen, it’s a progression that Makhija has achieved beautifully.
The film takes its leisurely time to set up and establish the character. The lead character is the sole person you worry about for a long time. Bhonsle is not only alone, but utterly lonely. Eating the same food everyday, washing the clothes and utensils in the same routine manner; as audience you are allowed to peep into the character’s life. For a long time on screen, nothing dramatic or lively happens. And that’s pretty much the entire life of Bhonsle. Intelligent filmmaking here.
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Makhija does let you dig deeper very soon. The conflicts arise, both in the narrative and the lives of characters. The angle of Marathi maanus and their dominance and how North Indians are tortured, physically and mentally hits you hard. An attempt has also been made to bring a balance, where the notorious side of both parties are shown.
But why the film works is that it is much more than what is seen on surface. The human emotions, the bonding between the people forms the key ingredient of depth in the film, something that strikes you very pleasantly. The film also tells a lot about humans and their mentality, in both extremes. On one hand, you have a hand that pulls you out of loneliness and gives you a reason to live. But on the other you have someone tearing your world apart.
The film also draws parallels. In the opening and the closing sequences (have a keen eye to observe), a stark parallel has been drawn between Ganesh idols and Bhonsle. Also there is a sequence when two insignificant people are waiting to meet the higher up to be able to rise in their respective lives in different ways.
The journey that the film takes is the one you just can’t anticipate. It’s a whole different scenario from what the film begins in. The film, strictly for quality cinema craving audience, is a reminder on how Bollywood is still in the game if sensibilities are right.
Manoj Bajpayee deserves salutes. He has maintained a rigid body all through, never leaving his character for even a second. One of the finest performances (which we say about every one of his) by the legend, he will bring you so close to him in the film that you wouldn’t want to take his eyes off. Even after the film has ended, you would want more of him. He owns the narrative in a riveting manner.
Santosh Juvekar is brilliant. You despise his character, proving how nicely he has lived up to it. He brings meanings into the story and mind you, he is not monotonous. He has different personalities to him, and he aces them all.
Ipshita Chakraborty is sweet and endearing. You like her in the role she has been given. Although it’s not a powerful character in terms of substance, hers is a role that is very important to the narrative.
Virat Vaibhav too is good. He is suited well for the part and does the needful. Abhishek Bannerjee has a very small role, and he does fine. Although he is capable of so much more.
Music by Mangesh Dhakde, consisting of score is very rightly placed. There are portions where the actors don’t say a thing, but the meanings are conveyed only through a justified score. Sound design by Kaamod Kharade must be credited here for giving the film true definitions that keep the film closer to reality.
Cinematography by Jismet Wangchuk is strong. There are portions that symbolically convey the essence of the scene only through the movement and tricks of camera. One where Bhonsle walking away after he is asked to submit his medical reports or when he is shown lost in a massive crowd. It is just marvellous camera at play. Production design by Shamim Khan and Sikandar Ahmad is also very good, shouting of realism.
Editing by Shweta Venkat Mathew stands out in particular where parallels are drawn between people, their situations or symbols of life.
It is a film that shines for its message. It is a film that is remarkable for its performance. The route it takes is also compelling. The film remains rooted to its concept of being close to reality, and that’s what it should be watched for. It must be watched.