Screenplay by Ravi Jadhav
Story by Dr. Anand Yadav
Amruta Khanvilkar in a special appearance in the Lavani song Wajle ki Bara
Music by Ajay Atul
Cinematography Mahesh Limaye
Editing by Jayant Jathar
Only when the mainstream cinema shows a sign of changing we can say that Indian cinema is improving. There have almost always been independent films which are well-made and are cinematically brilliant. But except for say the 50s and 60s the mainstream and commercially successful films in India have failed miserably in the critical department.
Marathi cinema is experiencing a revolution of sorts. It is steadily shifting from the cheap-comedies to the more sensible kind of cinema. Gandha,Gabhricha Paus, Harishchandrachi Factory, Dombivali Fast etc are the films which represent the latter. Though pretty well-made on the production sides as well they didn’t have a big producer backing them. So it was very interesting to see, at MAMI this year, that it was Zee Talkies, a mainstream producer, backing a movie’ Natarang’.
Natarang is the story of Guna- the ‘nachya’ in the folk culture of ‘tamasha’. It is an impressive tale of what a ‘nachya’, a female imposter in the ‘tamasha’, has to undergo. It is based on a book by the same name written by Dr. Anand Yadav, Marathi litterateur and President of this year’s Marathi Sahitya Sammelan. Having not read the book, I can’t really comment on how the movie fares compared to the acclaimed book. If looked at in isolation it does a fairly decent job.
Zee Talkies had presented around 6-7 projects before this one. Almost all of them did well commercially. De Dhakka and Mee Shivaji Raje Bhonsaley Boltoy, both directed by Mahesh Manjrekar, were few of them. As I hadn’t liked even one of those 6 films, I was a bit skeptical and was planning to miss Natarang for the short movies on Mumbai which were going to run at the same time on another screen. But an attractive and expressive poster (see above) was distributed in the mean time. It caught my attention and I decided to watch Natrang. The point to make here is that if it wasn’t for the pamphlet many, including me, would have given this movie a miss. I feel only because it was Zee promoting the movie, they had the smartness of printing the poster and effectively distributing it in time which no other production house had. Learning from past experiences, I went to the screen before time and caught a nice seat. The seats got full quickly and the aisles as well, a common site at MAMI this year.
The story is set in the rural Maharshtra of the 70s. It sensitively displays the prejudice of the society. It shows how the only thing which earns money in the village is the ‘Tamasha’. Atul Kulkarni, who plays the main character “Guna” in the movie, along with his friends plan to start a ‘Tamsha’ themselves. They undergo various difficulties in starting one. Most problems get solved but the one that remains unsolved is that of the ‘nachya’. No man is willing to play the role fearing the consequences. Under desperate measures the ‘pehelwan’ Guna agrees to play the ‘nachya’. Atul Kulkarni has excelled in his role as Guna. The transformation from a masculine and virile Guna to a feminine nachya is commendable. He is said to have gained and lost 16kgs in a span of 42 days for the role. The best part is he looks like the character to the tee. The movie then tracks the prejudice of the society in the way they look at the person who plays the nachya. But except for the manager and Guna’s father, the supporting cast fails to make an impression.
Director Ravi Jadhav is a first-timer. He has done pretty well as a debutante director. He is a graduate of JJ School of Arts. Wonder whether the poster was his contribution. The film is also about the struggle faced by an artist in the society. How the society considers the artist and his art as one and the same thing. Atul Kulkarni said in the press conference that how he was also jeered at by the crowd even while he was not giving a shot as a ‘nachya’. Various human relationships have also been portrayed in the movie quite effectively.
The music by the hit duo Ajay-Atul is impressive. However the use of Background Music in the movie annoyed me. For every emotional scene there is a loud BGM. Sometimes I felt it was demeaning to Atul Kulkarni as an actor as if he couldn’t portray an emotion without BGM. Taking a cue from “Gandha”(its opening titles were a tribute to Wong Kar Wai) the end credits of Natrang roll down with the captivating sound of the ‘dholak’ in the background which is very familiar with the premises of the movie.
Another thing I didn’t like was the very first and last shot of the movie. Otherwise a well shot movie, the first and last shot were a sore eye. It shows Guna getting a “Zee Puraskar”. Guess the director of the film was under pressure to include this shot.
Overall Natrang turned out to be a fine watch. The crowd in the theatre just loved it. The movie will appeal to all people irrespective of their class, community etc. So a big applause for Zee Talkies for backing such a venture.