A heartwarming tale

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 17 Nov 2018 11:52:26




By Aasawari Shenolikar

“Aai tula radayala yeta ka?” - eight-year-old Chaitanya asks his mother. For us the query might come across as innocent, but for Chaitanya , it was laden with feelings, it was as if his whole existence depended on the response. This is one of the significant high points of the film Naal, for the innocent mind of a child has formed an opinion that one of the factors to gauge a mother’s love is by simply finding out ‘whether she cries for you or not.’

Naal delves into the tender emotional bond between a mother and her child and looks at the relationship from the child’s perspective. Chaitanya’s mother Suman (Devika Daftdardar) dotes on him, as does his father (Nagraj Manjule) and his grandmother. Most of the first hour goes by in depicting Chaitanya’s happy and carefree life with his family and friends. The affectionate banter between the mother and son, the warm bond with his father and with the grandmother, who narrates stories about Lord Krishna every night, completes the happy family picture. His spare time is spent frolicking in the dusty bylanes of the village with his gang of friends. Everything is hunky dory until Mama (always the trouble maker as showcased in our mythological tales too) arrives and sows a seed of doubt in the little boy’s mind. “It’s our secret,” he warns him instructing him not to reveal what he has told to anyone. Mama leaves and he also leaves behind the little mind in a turmoil. Chaitanya’s perception about his mother changes. Suman notices the subtle changes and is troubled by the strange behaviour. Will the happy-go-lucky little boy, who at one point of time stops addressing his mother as Aai, instead calling her by her name Sumi, ever reconcile to the fact that there is no alternative in this world to a mother’s unselfish love?

Debutant director Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti, who has to his repertoire a rich experience of capturing cinema through the lens, while wielding the directorial baton, deftly brings across a realistic heartwarming tale of an eight-year-old, who questions his mother’s love for him. Yakkanti, who has also written the story, ensures that every single scene in the narrative lends gravitas to the plot. Replete with moments that bring on a smile, Naal also abounds in many poignant scenes that tug at your heart.

Naal's heart is Sriniwas Pokale who plays his age with utmost sincerity. There is nothing make believe about him in the entire movie. When he cajoles his mother to let him go and play instead of studying, there is an earnestness about him and this moment in the film reflects a moment in everyone’s life, for we all have gone through this phase. When he sees the newborn calf for the first time, the joy is expressed not only through his smile, but his eyes light up too. And that is what is exceptional about this little boy who rules every scene, every emotion. When the mother steadfastly refuses to let him go visit his Mama’s village, the disappointment writ large on his face is genuine; when he urges the bullock-cart rider to go a bit fast lest they miss the bus that is to take him to the other village, his excitement is contagious and when he is caught between missing the bus and going back to his own village, his frustration, his grief is unadulterated.

Every interaction - be it with his best friend Bachchan while they are sitting in the fields relieving themselves or with his father where he enquires about the feelings of their hen whose eggs he has just picked, to be incubated by another hen, or when he realises that the calf is dead - all are hallmark of a talented child. You can’t take your eyes off him during the entire length of the movie. But he is particularly exceptional during the fag end of the movie where his expectancy to be recognized and loved hangs heavily, the idea of rejection brings despondency and probably a sense of relief too.

Other characters - Manjule, Devika, the grandmother, Bachchan, Bachchan’s mother played by Takshshila Waghdare, even the cobbler in a scene leave an indelible impression. Devika Daftardar is flawless as Chaitu’s mother and Manjule, even though with limited footage and minimum dialogue delivery, gets his act right. That the cast has been able to dazzle with their acting, that the silences state many things, speak a lot about the writer’s ability to ensure that he is able to deliver what he has written. Yakkanti manages to create a connect with the audience.

Of course credit has to be given to the director for handling the fragile yet strong bond with utmost sensitivity. His attention to minute detailing in the film has made the movie more relatable. The way the mother puts her arm across her son when they are sleeping, the banter between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law - many things point to the fact that Yarkutti has drawn heavily from life and added it to his movie to make it realistic.

There is no over the top melodrama in the movie that has the premise for it. The dialogues, penned by Manjule, are simple, in a lingo that is of the land. In fact what we see is real people with real emotions in real situations. The background score compliments the tone of the movie. Cinematography is top notch, bringing alive on screen a remote village along the banks of Wainganga. The overhead shots are breathtaking.
Chaitanya’s innocence, the simplicity and genuineness of the film leaves us with a warm feeling. Watch it this weekend.

The Hitavada Rating  O OO