wogma rating: Watch when on TV/online (?)
In spite of a theme that could have found universal resonance, that of identity, Girish Mohite’s Bharatiya fails because of its rather far-fetched plot. It is funny in bits, and has some good performances, but these don’t manage to save the film.Read more
There haven’t been very many films in the recent past that traverse the graph that Girish Mohite’s Bharatiya does, with respect to the nature of its narrative. Armed with an interesting concept, the film is rocky but intriguing for much of its first hour. Thereafter, it descends into absurdity and preachiness of the kind that is bound to irritate even the most tolerant viewer at some point or the other.
The film opens with a wandering soothsayer, played by Makarand Anaspure, breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience. He introduces the story that is about to unfold, in a forgotten village called Adnide, located on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border.
The village itself has a host of expectedly quirky characters. Mohan Agashe and Kuldeep Pawar, for example, play a couple of power hungry old men who are at each other’s throats, all the while vying to be the head of the village. The soothsayer goes on to suggest that something explosive is soon going to happen in this village. Enter city-bred lad Abhay Sardeshmukh (played by Subodh Bhave) who intends to return to the village where his ancestors hailed from, for reasons that unveil as the film progresses.
The film’s one-word theme is quite simple - identity. What does it mean, to belong to a village, a state and a country, especially one like India, perhaps the most diverse nation in the world? Using a sleepy village that seems to run on autopilot as the subject actually doesn’t seem like too bad an approach to explore this question. However, the story meanders around such farfetched situations and characters that it becomes hard to take the film seriously after a particular point.
That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t entertain. It does, even if only sporadically, mainly because of some of the dialogue and the performances. Pawar and Agashe are in fine form, injecting their deadpan comedy with near-perfect timing. Jitendra Joshi is another actor who shines. Last seen playing the title role in Tukaram, this one is a little more up his alley – a confused lover forever eyeing the daughter of his rival. Few people play dumb on screen like he does, and he does make you laugh with this character as well.
One must grant that Subodh Bhave does try his best as the opinionated, petulant do-gooder that his character Abhay is. However, one can only do so much with a character that is as flat, preachy and, quite frankly, ridiculously silly as this one is. Intended to be the anchoring pillar of the film, Abhay’s character is quite easily one of the major flaws of the film.
Switching genres ever so often eventually becomes a problem for the film, because the audience rarely knows what to expect. While that may be a good thing for a film that is solely a thriller, this one is not. Not knowing that you are actually watching a political satire means a lot of the situations will actually be lost on you.
While director Girish Mohite has definitely moved forward since his last film, the disastrous Pratibimb, Bharatiya is still not a film that I’d recommend. In spite of the generous dose of comic moments, Bharatiya eventually becomes 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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