Work of art

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 10 Nov 2018 11:10:12



Ani....KAshinath Ghanekar

By Aasawari Shenolikar

Compelling cinema is about riveting stories that have the power of simply mesmerising the viewers. Bringing on the canvas, a biography and doing complete justice to a legendary character, is a difficult task. But Abhijeet Deshpande, after detailed research, not only wrote the script, but picked up the baton to direct an uber talented actor, who with his brilliance extraordinaire brought alive, on the screen, the legend Dr Kashinath Ghanekar.

The tricky part in a biography is to cram the story of a lifetime in mere three hours. So the narrative not only has to be tight, it has to be evocative as well, and one has to ensure that it doesn’t merely skim the surface. Deshpande hits the bulls eye in Ani... Dr Kashinath Ghanekar as he takes us on a journey where we get to see the intense and troubled life of the protagonist Dr Kashinath Ghanekar. Deshpande’s meticulous attention to detail brings alive the life of a renowned dentist Dr Kashinath Ghanekar, who is passionate only about one thing - and that is acting. The biopic, thankfully is a truthful representation of his life and reveals his foibles along with his finer points.

The rise and fall of the legendary actor as shown in the film, is a work of art. The actor, hailed as the first superstar of the Marathi theatre, and who to his credit has many firsts in the history of Marathi theatre, was said to have been an exemplary actor, who with his fiery and powerful portrayals of many characters, brought magic on the stage. Subhodh Bhave, who plays Dr Kashinath Ghanekar, in this narrative of triumph, burns up the screen with his commanding performance. Prabhakar Panshikar, at one point, ponders - what has more supremacy - Vasant Kanetkar’s power packed writing or Ghanekar’s authoritative presence on the stage - and while many would say that it is an amalgamation that brings alive the magic, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is the actor who reigns supreme, for it is he who gives vision and voice to the writer and director.

The first look of Subodh Bhave as the protagonist is mesmerising - he is reveling in the crowd and as the camera pans, you see the look of sheer arrogance on his face. That arrogance, that lust for power, that hunger for recognition became the talented actor’s undoing. The spotlight is always firmly on Ghanekar - That’s because so fixated is the actor with his own performances that he tells the spotboy to let the light focus on his face as he makes his entry. The wolf whistles at his entry, (a first in Marathi theatre), the applause at his dialogues (another first in Marathi theatre), the housefull shows, the black tickets (one more first in Marathi theatre), are the many reasons for Ghanekar getting a high. Success also breeds arrogance, but his belief that he is God of Marathi theatre takes a beating when he finds himself out of work. How important and necessary is adulation in the life of a performer can be gauged when  Ghanekar takes to films, which according to him do not do justice to his caliber, yet are a means to be in front of an audience.

Deshpande has beautifully portrayed the rise of Ghanekar through his legendary works - as Prince Sambhaji in Raigadhla Jevha Jaag Yete, and as Laalya in Ashrunchi Jhale Phule. Ghanekar brought the house down with these performances and rose to such heights that he was hailed as the first superstar of Marathi theatre. Never ever had Marathi theatre seen housefull shows that began at 7 am, never ever had Marathi theatre seen youngsters from college making a beeline for his show and hooting and applauding each dialogue that he uttered while playing Laalya on stage. In the same fashion, Deshpande also shows his fall - from grace, from the stage. The culprit for his downfall - his own arrogance, his alcoholism, his vain belief that he is the best and his womanising (which the director has touched with a long pole). The director has also very poignantly depicted the actor’s unrest, his relationship with his recalcitrant father, his touching bond with his wife Iravati and later his passion for Kanchan, who becomes his second wife.

Bhave dazzles with sheer brilliance. It’s a treat to watch him enact Sambhaji and hear him passionately deliver monologues that are truly awe inspiring. In one breathtaking scene, when the audience do not react to his dialogue Usmein kya hai - Ghanekar’s dejection is mind blowing. Bhave owns the stage, he possesses the dialogues, in short he captures the nuances of Ghanekar and lives the character. While the film is blatant about showcasing the craft of Bhave, (he is present in a larger than life image in every scene), it also has compelling performances by Anand Ingle as playwright Vasant Kanetkar, Prasad Oak as his mentor and friend Prabhakar Panshikar, Mohan Joshi as director Bhalji Pendharkar and Sonali Kulkarni as actor Sulochana. It was during Ghanekar’s time that another stalwart Dr Sriram Lagoo made his presence felt on the stage and a sort of ‘war’ was afoot between Ghanekar’s style of acting and Lagoo’s experimental style of work on stage. Sumeet Raghvan as Lagoo is endearing.

The film opens with a group of people hollering that ‘Kashinath Ghanekar ha rangmanch la lagleli keed aahe’. The natak weda Marathi manoos begs to differ - for when Marathi stage was in doldrums, Ghanekar pulled the audience back to the theatres, Today, he is pulling them to the multiplexes. The first applause might be a curse on any artist, but if it wasn’t for this applause, legends wouldn’t have been created, history would have been poorer without their compelling stories.

The last word on Ani... Dr Kashinath Ghanekar - like Laalya thunders - Ekdum Kadaaaakk.