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Saatchya Aat Gharat (2004)

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Directed by
Sanjay Soorkar

Writing credits
Sanjay Soorkar (story)

Nishikant Kamat (screenplay) and
Sanjay Pawar (screenplay)

Sanjay Pawar (dialogue)

Cast (in alphabetical order)
Bharati Achrekar
Makarand Anaspure
Vibhawari Deshpande ... Ketaki
Bharat Ganeshpure ... Advocate
Suhas Joshi

Nishikant Kamat
Nina Kulkarni
Reema Lagoo ... Narrator
Girish Oak
Kartika Rane
Rakhi Sawant
Uday Tikekar

Keeping up the tempo generated earlier this year by the critical success of Amol Palekar's Anaahat and best national film Shwaas, yet another Marathi film, Saatchya Aat Gharat (At home before seven), is making waves in the city.

Centred around the rape of a college girl on the Pune university campus by an imposter policeman on September 7, 2002, the film presents a compelling debate. It discusses not just the incident and its fallout, but also the beerguzzling, pub-crawling, body-piercing, hipsters-clad youth culture.

The victim, who hailed from Kolkata, was out in the evening with a classmate. A stranger, posing as a policeman, hauled up the two and demanded identity cards.

As the boy left to fetch the cards, the man took the girl to the university campus, under the pretext of taking her to a police station, and raped her.

While the city has not forgotten the incident or the fact that the rapist may still be out there, stalking other victims, the film graduates to a different level of discussion.

It speaks of society's unchanged outlook towards the woman, especially a rape victim, despite modernisation.

"This was a rape case where the victim received very little public sympathy," recalls the film's director, Sanjay Surkar, with dismay.

"Everybody asked, 'So what business did she have, being out there with a boy at a secluded spot in the night?' I sensed this was because of the resentment against Western notions of modernity. The easy intermingling of young girls and boys, the increasingly revealing girls' fashions, Valentine's Day et al," says Surkar about what inspired the project.

Aided by Sanjay Pawar's punchpacked dialogue, which flits effortlessly between campus Hindi, Marathi and English, the film opens in great style, establishing the "cool" new culture, where the tragedy is about to unfold.

It speaks of the daughter, for whom it is "cool" to call her mother a "phataka" or to change her Valentine's every year, but it does not fail to register her grandmother's restrained outburst.

The film speaks of an upper class girl's dilemma between her "Westernised" upbringing and the largely orthodox society outside. It speaks of the social torment of a middle-class girl studying with upper-class students.

It also speaks of the helplessness of the parents of both the classes, and of the children for whom their own happiness is more important than their parents' values.

Pawar, as dialogue-writer and script co-writer, does a lot of hard talking, to both the generations, often through comedian Makarand Anaspure's rustic antics. Much of it is cheered on by both the young and the old among the audience, but the film gets a tad too lengthy in the process.

Saatchya Aat Gharat comes across as a very topical, social encyclopaedia. It has the makings of a cult film, except that it's too intellectual to become one.

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