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Veteran Marathi playwright and director Ratnakar Matkari's debut film Investment holds strong vestiges of his theatre background. The characters and the performances overshadow the message that the film is trying to get across, in a manner that is often detrimental to the film itself. Thus, despite having its heart in the right place, the film comes across as being far too theatrical.
Acclaimed playwright and theatre director, Ratnakar Matkari makes his feature film debut at the age of 74 with his film Investment, which premiered at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival, in the India Gold category for Indian premieres in competition. A film that largely remains theatrical because of the way in which the characters and scenes have been treated, I often found myself wondering exactly what the selection panel saw in the film for them to shortlist it as a finalist in the competition.
The film tells the story of Ashish and Prachi, a young couple who have lofty ambitions of speeding through Maslow's hierarchy of needs even if the cost of it is losing their grounding and values. They have even higher ambitions for their adolescent boy Sohel, who they hope to groom and nurture into a politician in the future. Sohel's paternal grandmother tries her best to instill values in the child, who is an absolute brat, but she begins to see that in a world where everything is about how much you have and who you know, she seems to be fighting a losing battle. With the parents spoiling their child endlessly, along with their own aspirations of moving into a higher class of society, an incident in their lives shakes them from their roots.
There isn't a doubt about the fact that Ratnakar Matkari's intentions are noble. We indeed do live in a world where material worth and social circles carry far more weight than one's innate character. Money can buy you almost anything, and with the exposure that today's children have to the explosion of media and information around them, there is a very real threat that in the not-too-distant future, society will cease to believe in the very concepts of right and wrong. Ratnakar Matkari has dealt with these very issues in his film, through the characters of Ashish, Prachi and Sohel. The film's undoing lies in the fact that he has treated it with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the audience's head.
Ashish is the 'cool' dad who, as Prachi tells her mother-in-law in the film, is more his son's friend than his father, as is the 'norm' in society today. Prachi herself is gloriously theatrical while executing her unashamed ambitions, planning her family's rise in society with the machinations of a Shakespearean manipulator. Sohel is an annoying brat who has his way with his parents at all times, getting only fond looks and expensive gifts for his unbearably obnoxious behaviour. These characters have been painted with such broad strokes that they almost stand out as caricatures. In spite of having a competent cast with names like Tushar Dalvi and Sulbha Deshpande, the performances of the cast are over-the-top, which contributes to the film seeming even more theatrical.
For this story to succeed cinematically, it needed a far more subtle approach. The characters, which no doubt are rooted in the real, end up seeming unreal because of the treatment. Also, even technically, the camerawork makes it seem more like a filmed play than anything else. The screenplay itself is rather loose and begins bordering on the inane towards the latter half of the film.
Investment thus ends up being a little like a Madhur Bhandarkar film albeit with a cleaner, more relevant subject. It might work as a weekend afternoon TV watch and those who subscribe to the rather strong stereotypes of the characters in the film might even enjoy it. But for most, the film's extremes will make it a tedious watch.
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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