I’m not generally big on writing movie reviews but am writing one here. Why? Well here’s the background.
I went to watch Kakasparsh based on my parents having watched it over the weekend and given it a thumbs up (but I never had a chance to talk about it with them) and a solitary positive 2 line review on a Facebook status. Now I generally tend to research the movies I see beforehand, but since I’m twiddling my thumbs these days, I saw an advertisement for a 4 15 show at 4 10 and took off without a thought. The point I want to make is I went in absolutely zero expectations or the faintest idea about what it would be about. (Yes, the name indicates the subject broadly but that’s about it)
I really enjoyed the movie, if enjoyed is the right word…I guess liked is better in the context. And as is my wont, I came home and started the post-movie analysis through reviews, IMDB and what not. Basically it’s apparent that it’s not been reviewed too much in the English press. And one review which occurs time and again, syndicated by DNA to every two-cent website is this one.
Quite simply, unless this chap is Roger Ebert ki aulaad and understands the fine art of motion pictures a million time better than me, I have to conclude that this review is biased. Not just slightly biased, Taran Adarsh level biased. Yes. I understand, and appreciate difference of opinion but I refuse to believe this is just that. And he’s given it 2 stars (I agree with Raja Sen, scrap the star system!) which means anyone short of time or lazy is going to look at that and move on to the next movie.
And as I feel this is a fine fine movie, which anyone who understands the language should watch, I feel it is my moral obligation to write a review and set the record right. So the next time, someone who feels like watching the movie Googles it in order to get a general idea, he/she should not be turned off it by that one lameass review which has proliferated all over.
So if you have not seen the movie yet, stop here. Go. See. For sure. Sachhi. Unless your taste is restricted to only movies from the Akshay Kumar (believe me, I am not trying to be holier-than-thou here!) school of comedy, you will definitely find it an enriching experience.
There. With that out of the way, let me get to the movie.
Kakasparsh is a period drama, set in the 1930’s and 40’s in an idyllic (and it’s really idyllic this one) village on the Konkan coast focussed on a Brahmin family. Hari (Sachin Khedekar) is the patriarch of the family, consisting of his wife and kids, his younger brother and his aatya (father’s sister/buaa). He decides to get his younger brother Mahadeo, studying law in Mumbai married off before his education is complete. A young girl Durga (Ketaki Mategaonkar), 13 years of age is selected as per the customs of the time and the marriage is fixed while Mahadeo is at home.
Post marriage Mahadeo returns to the city to complete his education only to be is summoned home for a ceremony to celebrate Uma’s attaining of womanhood. Fate strikes and an already unwell Mahadeo falls unconscious on his first night and passes away. At the shraddha as per custom, a crow is supposed to touch the pinda (a ball made of rice and teel (No? 😛 )) and only after that would the soul of the person passed away RIP. The act of Kakasparsh takes some time, but finally Hari after saying a prayer of sorts, it does happen.
This is Brahminnical India at its best in a small village in the 1930’s and every single custom and tradition has to be followed to a T. The widow has little rights and is shown to be destined to live a life without anything to look forward to (illustrated beautifully by a conversation between the old hag, Namu aatya and Uma). No coloured clothes, no festivals or ceremonies to attend, a tonsured head at all times are just some of the things in store. However we see Hari come to the rescue of his young sister in law time and again, going against the ire of the villagers as well as his wife and more imporantly, against shaastra. There are the obvious whispers in society, with a movement led against Hari by his social counterpart, Upadhyay.
When his wife Tara passes away suspecting something between Hari and Uma, she makes a final feverish request to Hari to marry Uma. The idea is tossed away and as time passes Hari stops speaking to Uma, even breaking off his longstanding friendship with the revolutionary Vasudeo Balwant Phadke (I think?) over it. As Hari’s children grow older, the situation at home begins to get out of hand building towards a rather gripping finale.
I thought this movie has done extreemely well on the following fronts:
First the story, despite taking its time, it is riveting with enough to keep you guessing at every point of time. Intentions are masked, much is said without being said and in general there isn’t a dull moment. The multiple flashbacks is a nice touch. What I really liked is the greyness in the characters, something we very rarely see in Indian cinema. No one is on the good side or the bad side of the continuum, they continue to swerve along it from scenario to scenario. Genuinely well etched out.
The acting I thought is simply fabulous. Everyone looks in place, totally living the characters. Especially Sachin Khedekar, Priya Bapat (the older Uma) and Savita Malpekar (Namu aatya) stole the show. Priya Bapat I thought could maintain a balance between coyness, frustration and hauntedness. Special mention of the scene at the well-side with her niece. Goosebump inducing. And Sachin Khedekar, despite going over the top in many other movies I recall (See Me ShivajiRaje Bhonsale boltoy for instance) was perfect as the man of honour as well and stole the show as the main protagonist.
Historical accuracy, well in true MBA-speak, I’ll say it had high Face Validity 😛 I don’t really know much about that era, but it looked and felt really accurate….from the costumes, to the homes to the language used. If nothing else, feel toh aa gaya. A good history lesson for sure 🙂
But top marks more than anything else from me for handling of a lot of sensitive issues in a …well, sensitive way. Honour, sacrifice, love, ego, social mores and quite a few more which I thought could have been swept under the carpet but weren’t. Kudos.
I was very surprised when I found out after the movie that this was directed by Mahesh Manjrekar. I can now understand why he’s so highly rated (he is right? 😛 ). I saw Vaastav just a few months ago and while it had a great plot and story, I thought the direction was shoddy. But maybe that’s just the 90’s :-| Also his other Marathi movies like Me Shivajiraje… or Lalbaug-Parel I thought had some really great issues picked up but were way to over-the-top to be taken too seriously. Here apart from 2 scenes which jarred (one where Upadhyay and his cronies attack the Damles house and one where Hari is chopping a tree trunk in anger) I can’t recall anything sensational or overdone which is very nice. This is supposedly his labour-of-love, so a hat tip there to him.
The music was a bit meh IMO but hey, it might just be me unable to appreciate it. Some of the folk songs were nicely picturised. And the Arey sansaar sansaar poem, though hauntingly read…well I thought it was just a wee bit forcefit, especially at the end. But these are minor quibbles.
Yes I know, this is looks like an extremely biased review as well, which I complained about initally. I read it again and it seems like a total fanboy written one but hey, maybe it’ll undo the damage the DNA one has done. It’s a movie I think everyone should watch. I thought it was handled and made in a much more classy and sophisticated manner than say Shwaas and painted a much wider canvas than Shaala or Zhenda. I also loved the professional touch and feel, fabulous cinematography which regional cinema (or atleast Marathi one) seems to suffer from too often. This is 4 Star cinema at the very least! Jaao…
Good to see there are a couple of more reviews in the market as well now. So people can take an educated decision.
I will however use this as a platform to take another shot at well. Deepa Deosthalee at filmimpressions.com has written what I perceive is a rather bashy review by contrasting it against a 1937 movie Kunku. I quote Ms. Deosthalee here “Just like Shantaram’s film reflects his progressive thinking, Manjrekar’s reeks of nostalgia for a lost world where the man’s position was supreme and the women were compelled to remain subservient to him.” And then “But it is equally true that both the subject and the treatment of the film lack depth or even hold interest in the context of present times, beyond raising questions about the intentions of a filmmaker determined to reinforce regressive values.”
I’m sorry Miss but this is a movie based upon a book. Which is a period drama reflecting the mores of that era. It is a story from the past which has been re-told, and is not a documentary film looking to drive home a point for it ‘reinforce regressive values’. I do not think the movie condones or condemns anyone’s behavior (and if you want to get picky, one could argue that the last 5 minutes actually do not reinforce anything of that sort). It merely depicts things as they were, and that is not the same as reeking for nostalgia. Is a good movie for you merely one which forces positive stereotypes down peoples throats?
Can’t we take it as a window which allows us (urban yuppies if you will) to look into an era we know little about? And by understanding that, we also understand a lot more about the many issues that plague us and society today as well.