Ravi Jadhav’s Balak-Palak is a film that deals with one of the most sensitive issues that adolescents go through; it is the kind of film that just might get parents and children to start opening up to each other. With some excellent performances led by five children who steal the show, BP is a film I would strongly recommend that families watch together.
Children are curious; there is no escaping this fact. And parents, no matter how they were as children themselves, will always try to protect their children from what they believe is bad for them. Of course, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are constructs whose definitions are as varied as the personalities of the people defining them. Acclaimed director Ravi Jadhav’s latest offering, Balak-Palak, or BP, deals with this important facet of ‘growing up’ in a manner that is lucid, charming, honest and so much more.
BP takes a peek into the lives of five young children; five friends growing up in a ‘chawl’, their adolescent curiosity, their escapades in this regard and the eventual effect that this has on their friendship and their respective relationships. With some genuinely insightful moments peppered with just the right amount of humour, BP is one of those films that touch your heart, without ever getting tedious or heavy.
What the film also cleverly does is touch upon a sensitive subject without ever making the audience squeamish or uncomfortable. In fact, the film talks about a subject that parents and children never seem to talk about, but does it in a manner that will appeal to children and adults alike. As the title of the film does give a hint about what the film is about, I’ll refrain from going into it; I’d rather you discover it for yourselves, if you don’t already know.
The film is helped immensely by the performances of the ensemble cast. The film features known names in Marathi cinema like Subodh Bhave, Amruta Subhash, Anand Ingale, Sai Tamhankar and Kishore Kadam. All of them are excellent, without exception. But all of them only have cameos. They are merely side players, aimed more at supporting the real heroes and heroines of the film – the children.
Prathamesh Parab (Vishu), Rohit Phalke (Avya), Shashwati Pimplikar (Dolly), Bhagyashree Shankpal (Chiu) and Madan Deodhar (Bhagya) are the pillars of this film. BP, after all, is about the search for answers to the questions that these children have, their friendships, their views and their lives. All five of them are extremely talented; their spontaneity is the soul of this film. Also, their characters have been written so convincingly that you leave the film carrying them away as your own friends (or children, if that is the case.) Ravi Jadhav has to be lauded for clearly putting the children at enough ease to make them lose their inhibitions in front of the camera.
If director Ravi Jadhav is responsible for the children being the soul of the film, then cinematographer Mahesh Limaye deserves a pat on his back for giving the soul a body that can hold its own visually; in fact, rarely has a Marathi film looked so good. Beautiful frames combine with the earthy sepia tone to deliver a film that looks good enough for the makers to be proud of. Special mention must also be made of the music, which gels with the film nicely. It is heartening to see Vishal-Shekhar working on Marathi films as well – they’ve done some of the songs in this film.
Surprisingly, some of my few problems with this film lie in the area where the film is actually quite strong – the writing. While the film’s simple, clean story and screenplay are excellent, I wish the film had focused some more on the parents’ side of the story. Yes, the film tries to convey that parents were also children once. But the parents of the children whose story we see are hardly ever shown in the film. I walked away wishing I’d known what they had gone through. Also, the film tries hard to avoid being preachy, but invariably does end up being so in the end. Another small niggle lies in the sound – the dialogue often (but not always) has an accompanying background hiss to it that distracts, perhaps because of problems in recording sync sound.
One of the reasons why I had cut back on the number of Marathi films I watch in the theatre is the fact that there seemed to be one new release every week, with mediocrity become somewhat of a norm amongst them. BP, thankfully, rises above that. It made me smile throughout, and it often made the audience I watched the film with laugh out loud. This is the kind of film that I’d insist a family – parents and their children – watch together.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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