Sure-footed start

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 05 Jan 2019 12:09:03



Bhai – Vyakti Ki Valli

By Aasawari Shenolikar,

Biopics have the power of bringing alive history. But sometimes history, as we know, can be dull and boring. So, the most important point of any biopic is that the narrative has to be spellbinding. It must take slices from the protagonist’s life and create a compelling drama.

For any biopic to succeed, to be captivating, it needs to have focus, it needs to have an angle around which the story revolves. The written word - a biography or an autobiography can take up reams and reams of paper to chronicle the life of a person, and if the writing is exemplary with the interplay of words and sentences bringing to life the life of the person in question, appeals to the reader, the experience of delving into the book can be fascinating. However, in a picture format, to cram everything into a three hour time capsule can be pretty risky.

Mahesh Manjrekar, who had earlier tasted huge success with Pu La Deshpande’s Vyakti Ani Valli, the drama that he had staged, undertook the risk of bringing on screen the life of Purushottam Laxman Deshpande, Maharashtra’s cultural icon, the multitalented man, known not for only for his humourous writings, but also for his screenplay writing, composing music, writing songs, social work - anything with a cultural tilt to it and Pu La had dabbled in it.

Manjrekar wanted to bring to the audience the man who took cues from people around him, and in the most uncomplicated and effortless manner composed magic that laced with humour, even today has the power to evoke genuine laughter, over and over again. He wanted to bring on screen the person, the Vyakti, that Pu La was. And taking up from Pu La’s famed work, Vyakti Ani Valli, Manjrekar brings to us Bhai - Vyakti ki Valli, in the process unraveling Pu La’s personal life on the big screen. Was Pu La, then, more interesting a person than a writer?

In the first part of the two series planned by Manjrekar, Pu La’s life is reflected from his childhood, adolescent period and as a young adult through anecdotes that establish the fact that the genius had a funny streak in him. His father (played by Sachin Khedekar) time and again states that his son is born to be famous. Bhai, as he is popularly known as, loses his spouse within a week of getting married, and then later marries Sunita (Iravati Harshe). Ignoring all his foibles and his obsession with theatre, Sunita stands by him, sometimes chiding him, sometimes encouraging him.

It is post-interval that anecdotes from Vyakti Ani Valli come into play in the biopic. With Anna, (a character from Vyakti Ani Valli) coming into picture, instances of Nehru paying a visit to Ratnagiri, why Gandhi’s visit to Ratnagiri would not have been a success, the khat on which Lokmanya Tilak was born and cried for the first time find a mention. Unfortunately, these fail to evoke any laughter because they seem totally out of context here. To bring across different phases and aspects of anyone’s life and to maintain continuity is challenging.

Manjrekar finds himself in shaken territory here as so many scenes come across as patchy, just thrown in for reference. And the chronological way in which the movie unfolds makes it a tad monotonous. There doesn’t seem to be any ups and downs in this literary genius’ life. At least that’s what we get to see. Some spark is infused at the fag end of the first part when three stalwarts who ruled the world of music back then - Vasantrao Deshpande, Kumar Gandharva and Bhimsen Joshi come under roof. And then what unfolds is pure magic when the trinity sing Kanada Raja Pandharicha.  It is the same magic that Pu La evoked through his writings. Pu La’s writings, thus seem to be more riveting than his persona. He brought a lot of mirth in people’s lives because joy was his constant ally.

The backbone of any biopic is casting. Manjrekar has been spot on with his casting - Sagar Deshmukh is superb as the portly Pu La Deshpande. He is complemented by the other crew members. A couple of them come across as being too theatrical, but all said and done, Bhai is a light-hearted film. It is definitely not a path breaking film and it certainly does not have mass appeal, but for the die-hard fans of Puroshattam Laxman Deshpande, a good watch.

The second part, that hopefully, will bring into focus the work that catapulted him to fame, will release in February.

The Hitavada Rating : O O 1/2